8 Canadian Children's Books to Celebrate Black History Month

By Andrea Kistler February 25, 2021

While an African-American historian named Carter G. Woodson founded a week that celebrated the accomplishments of African Americans back in 1926, did you know that the Canadian government officially recognized February as Black History Month in 1995?

There are a lot of articles listing amazing stories that highlight historical and current African Americans but there are equally amazing achievements and trials overcome by black Canadians that we should be sharing with our children. Below is a list of children books, compiled by our Winnipeg Macaroni Kid publisher, of Canadian authors that celebrate history and culture from a black Canadian perspective. Click the image to reserve a copy to your closest FVRL location, or keep a look out at your local bookstore. 

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Malaika's Winter Carnival

by Nadia Hohn, Irene Luxbacher
Nadia L. Hohn's prose, written in a blend of standard English and Caribbean patois, tells a warm story about the importance of family, especially when adjusting to a new home. Malaika has moved to Quebec City and is adjusting to new winter weather and celebrations.

Viola Desmond won't be budged!

by Jody Nyasha Warner

Viola Desmond was one brave woman! Now come on here, listen in close and I'll tell you why ...

In Nova Scotia, in 1946, an usher in a movie theater told Viola Desmond to move from her main floor seat up to the balcony. She refused to budge. Viola knew she was being asked to move because she was black. In no time at all, the police arrived and took Viola to jail. The next day she was charged and fined, but she vowed to continue her struggle against such unfair rules.

Viola's determination gave strength and inspiration to her community at the time. She is an unsung hero of one of Canada's oldest and most established black communities. Like Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks, who many years later, in 1955, refused to give up their bus seats in Alabama, Desmond's act of refusal awakened people to the unacceptable nature of racism and began the process of bringing an end to racial segregation in Canada. 

Mayann's Train Ride

by The Honourable Mayann Francis, Tamara Thiebaux-Heikalo

Nine-year-old Mayann Francis and her family are travelling from their home in Cape Breton to New York City by train. Everything is exciting to young Mayann, from the beds that fold down to the stop in Montreal to visit friends. Most exciting of all is the chance to show off her brand new purse.

When the Francis family arrives in big, bustling New York City, Mayann visits with relatives, goes to the zoo, and rides the subway. She even receives a beautiful black doll, something she has never seen before. But one subway ride, she loses her beautiful purse. At first she's heartbroken, but she just might learn a lesson that makes the whole trip worthwhile.

*The Honourable Mayann Francis was the 31st Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Nova Scotia

Oscar Lives Next Door: a Story Inspired by Oscar Peterson's Childhood
by Bonnie Farmer & Marie LaFrance

Long before Oscar Peterson became a virtuoso jazz pianist, he was a boy who loved to play the trumpet. When a bout of childhood tuberculosis weakened his lungs, Oscar could no longer play his beloved instrument. He took up piano and the rest is history: Oscar went on to become an international jazz piano sensation.

Oscar Lives Next Door is a fictional story inspired by these facts. The book imagines a next-door neighbor for Oscar named Millie, who gets into mischief with him but also appreciates his talents: Oscar hears music in everything, and Millie calls him a magician for the way he can coax melodies from his trumpet. Millie writes to Oscar during his long stay in the hospital for tuberculosis, and she encourages his earliest notes on the piano.

Set in Oscar’s true childhood neighborhood of St-Henri — now known as Little Burgundy — the book provides a wonderful sense of this 1930s neighborhood where most of Montreal’s Black working class population lived. Detailed digital illustrations make the community’s culture and music almost tangible.

The kids book of Black Canadian History

by Rosemary Sadlier

From the first Black person who came to Canada about 400 years ago to the most recent wave of African immigrants, Black Canadians have played an important role in our country's history. In this informative overview, kids will discover the inspiring stories and events of a people who fought oppression as they searched for a place to call their own. Featuring fact boxes, mini-profiles, a timeline and more, this book in the acclaimed Kids Book of series offers a glimpse into an often-overlooked part of Canadian history.

Black Women who Dared

by Naomi Moyer

Beautiful, colorful illustrations tell the inspirational stories of ten black women and women's collectives from 1793 to the present.

Included are leaders who were anti-slavery activists and organizers who promoted basic health care, literacy and scholarship within their neighborhoods. The stories and art celebrate these remarkable women who are not necessarily well known or recognized, but have had profound impacts on their communities.

Underground to Canada

by Barbara Smucker

Taken away from her mother by a ruthless slave trader, all Julilly has left is the dream of freedom. Every day that she spends huddled in the slave trader's wagon travelling south or working on the brutal new plantation, she thinks about the land where it is possible to be free, a land she and her friend Liza may reach someday. So when workers from the Underground Railroad offer to help the two girls escape, they are ready. But the slave catchers and their dogs will soon be after them...

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