Black History Month 2015

February is Black History Month. Celebrate this month in your school or library with Canadian books for kids and teens.

Picture Books

Anna Carries Water
Written by Olive Senior
Illustrated by Laura James
Tradewind Books, 2013
ISBN 978-1-896580-60-9
IL: Ages 4-8  RL: Grades 2-3
Anna’s family needs water for cooking, drinking, washing dishes and brushing teeth. Anna and her siblings fetch water from the spring every day, but she can’t carry it on her head like her older brothers and sisters. Anna worries she’ll never be able to carry water on her head, but her older sister tells her it will “just happen” one day.
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Community Soup
Written and illustrated Alma Fullerton
Pajama Press, 2013
ISBN 978-1-927485-27-9
IL: Ages 4-12  RL: Grades 1-2
Kioni loves her goats, but they can be big trouble! On soup day, when all the other students are gathering vegetables from the community garden, Kioni is gathering goats! Luckily the kids have a great idea, and soon Kioni’s four-legged friends are helping to make the soup a delicious success. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Creation of Hope Project in Kenya. Young readers will also want to read Fullerton’s A Good Trade.
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From Lands of the Night
Written by Tololwa M. Mollel
Illustrated by Darrell McCalla
Red Deer Press, 2014
ISBN 978-0-88995-498-4
IL: Ages 6 and up  RL: Grades 2-3
When Ra-Eli’s brother falls ill, her family is instructed by the healer to hold a joyful celebration. What follows is a magical event. First, neighbours and friends come — then angels and finally Mola — God. Music and dancing ensue, and when the exhausted Ra-Eli wakes, Mola hands the now recovered baby to his joyful mother. This story is a true testament to the power of ceremony and music and the honoring of ancestors who come — From Lands of the Night.
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My Book of Stripes
Written and photographed by Kathy Knowles
Osu Children’s Library Fund, 2014
ISBN 978-0-9868383-9-2
IL: Ages 1-5  RL: Grade 1
This photo-illustrated book celebrates stripes with a particularly African focus. Simple declarative sentences relate to bright, bold photographs of children and things with stripes in various settings and situations. Young children will enjoy finding all the different stripes in the photographs and will get a glimpse of daily life in Ghana.
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My Name Is Blessing
Written by Eric Walters
Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Tundra Books, 2013
ISBN 978-1-77049-301-8
IL: Ages 7-12  RL: Grades 3-4
Based on the life of a real boy, this warm-hearted, beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Baraka, a young Kenyan boy with a physical disability. Baraka lives with his grandmother and his eight cousins, and while Baraka’s grandmother gives her grandchildren boundless love, there is never enough money or food, making life very hard. Baraka’s grandmother is faced with a difficult choice, but that decision changes both of their lives for the better. Young readers will also want to read Hope Springs, also by Walters and Fernandes.
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Up Home
Written by Shauntay Grant
Illustrated by Susan Tooke
Nimbus Publishing, 2008
ISBN 978-1-55109-660-5
IL: Ages 5-8  RL: Grade 3
Shauntay Grant’s poem describes the happy memories of her childhood visits to North Preston, Nova Scotia. Her words evoke the sights, sounds, rhythms and folks of a joyful place. Susan Tooke’s artwork captures the warmth of one of Canada’s most significant black communities.
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Junior & Intermediate Fiction

A Desperate Road to Freedom: The Underground Railroad Diary of Julia May Jackson
(Dear Canada)
Written by Karleen Bradford
Scholastic Canada, 2009
ISBN 978-0-545-99619-8
IL: Ages 10-13  RL: Grade 4
A riveting tale of a brave family’s last bid for freedom, and the price they pay to find it. Readers will be moved as they follow Julia May’s family on their trek north. But even here, old prejudices die hard.
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Last Days in Africville
Written by Dorothy Joan Perkyns
Dundurn, 2006 ©2003
ISBN 978-1-55002-630-6
IL: Ages 9-12  Rl: Grades 4-6
Twleve-year-old Selina is growing up in the community of Africville in 1965. The only black student in her grade 6 class, she takes comfort in the fact that every day she goes home to a loving neighbourhood. But will the only home she knows be taken away?
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The Madman of Piney Woods
Written by Christopher Paul Curtis
Scholastic Canada, 2014
ISBN 978-1-4431-3912-0
IL: Ages 8-12  RL: Grades 4-5
Set in 1901, in the towns of Buxton and neighbouring Chatham Ontario, Benji and Red aren’t friends. They don’t even live in the same town. But their fates are entwined. A chance meeting leads the boys to discover that they have more in common than meets the eye. There’s a strange presence in the forest… Could the Madman of Piney Woods be real? This is the companion novel to Elijah of Buxton.
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Underground to Canada
(Puffin Classics)
Written by Barbara Smucker
Puffin Canada, 2013 ©1977
ISBN: 978-0-14-318789-9
IL: Ages 9-13  RL: Grades 5-6
Ripped from her mother by slave traders, Julilly yearns to be free. She and her friend Liza dream of escaping to Canada, the ‘Promised Land’ of freedom. So when the Underground Railway offers to help them escape, they are ready. But slave catchers are also ready to relentlessly pursue them… This Canadian classic includes an intro by Lawrence Hill.
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Young Adult Fiction

Between Sisters
Written by Adwoa Badoe
Groundwood Books, 2010
ISBN 978-0-88899-997-9
IL: Ages 14 and up  RL: Grade 8
When Gloria fails her final exams, her future looks bleak. With her mother ill and her father out of work, Gloria moves north to Kumasi to be a nanny and housekeeper for a well-to-do relative. Gloria is betrayed by the people around her and disillusioned by her life. When she decides who she can trust and draws on her inner resources, she puts the bad experiences behind her. A glossary of Ghanaian terms is included.
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Chasing Freedom
Written by Gloria Ann Wesley
Roseway Publishing, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-55266-423-0
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 5-6
Sarah Redmond’s father steals away in the dead of night to join the British army with its promises of freedom, land and provisions. But before he can return, the American Revolutionary war ends, and Sarah and her grandmother Lydia are among the loyalist slaves sent to Birchtown, Nova Scotia—the first all-black community in North America. Their struggle for freedom is just beginning as they find friends, foes and hidden family secrets.
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Cry of the Giraffe
Written by Judie Oron
Annick Press, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-55451-271-3
IL: Ages 14 and up  RL: Grade 9
Fleeing from hatred and persecution because of their Jewish faith, 13-year-old Wuditu and her family trek on foot to Sudan, hoping to be transported to Yerusalem and a better life. Instead they are herded into a refugee camp and eventually forced back to the Ethiopian border. Judie Oron, a journalist, risks her life to help Wuditu leave Ethiopia and find safety in her spiritual homeland of Israel. This story is based on true events.
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The Gospel Truth
Written by Caroline Pignat
Red Deer Press, 2014
ISBN 978-0-88995-493-9
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 7-8
Through the different points of view of slaves Phoebe and her friend Shad, their masters, and a visiting Canadian bird-watcher, the world of a Virginia tobacco plantation in 1858 comes to life in this historical free-verse novel.
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Africans Thought of It: Amazing Innovations
(We Thought of It)
Written by Bathseba Opini and Richard Lee
Annick Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-55451-277-5
IL: Ages 9-11  RL: Grades 4-6
From aloe vera to the xylophone, discoveries and innovations originating in Africa have spread around the world. Learn how Africa and its people have influenced the fields of hunting, agriculture, medicine, communications, games, music and many other areas. A section on Africa today and a brief timeline help students to further understand this amazing continent.
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Birchtown and the Black Loyalists
Written by Wanda Lauren Taylor
Nimbus Publishing, 2014
ISBN 978-1-77108-166-5
IL: Ages 7-12  RL: Grades 5-6
In this title young readers are introduced to the story of the Black Loyalists of Birchtown: from slavery to the American Revolution; to settlement and struggle on Nova Scotian soil in Birchtown; and finally to mass exodus to Freetown, Sierra Leone. Their legacy, carried on through Black Loyalist descendants, is an enduring spirit despite a history marked by hardship and loss.
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Jackie Robinson: Breaking the Color Line in Baseball
(Crabtree Groundbreaker Biographies)
Written by Matt J. Simmons
Crabtree Publishing, 2014
ISBN 978-0-7787-1244-2
IL: Ages 11-14  RL: Grade 6
When much of the United States was still racially segregated, Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier to become the first African-American player in Major League Baseball. With dignity and composure, Robinson endured racist jeers and even death threats from fans and players. His historic feat of crossing baseball’s “colour line” became a symbol in the American civil rights movement.
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The Kids Book of Black Canadian History
(Kids Book of…)
Written by Rosemary Sadlier
Illustrated by Qijun Wang
Kids Can Press, 2010 ©2003
ISBN: 978-1-55453-587-3
IL: Ages 10-14  RL: Grades 5-6
From the first black person who came to Canada about 400 years ago to the most recent wave of African immigrants, kids will discover the inspiring stories of a people who fought oppression as they searched for a place to call their own.
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