CCBC February 2014 Newsletter: Black History Month

Hello, readers! This month, we are celebrating Black History Month with a themed book list, an interview with author Rosemary Sadlier, and classroom activity suggestions. We hope you find these resources helpful.

Thank you to everyone to participated in our survey last month! We always appreciate your feedback, and will take all your suggestions into consideration for future issues of the newsletter. If you have more ideas for us, please don’t hesitate to email me.

Happy reading,

Camilia Kahrizi
Marketing and Website Coordinator
Canadian Children’s Book Centre



February Book List: Black History Month
Author Corner: An Interview with Rosemary Sadlier
Classroom Activity Suggestion
INSPIRE! The Toronto International Book Fair – Opportunities for Teachers and Schools
Out Now: Winter 2014 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News
Next Month…

February Book List: Black History Month

by Emma Sakamoto

In honour of Black History Month, we’ve compiled a list of relevant Canadian books for kids and teens. Interest Level (IL) is listed by age; Reading Level (RL) is listed by grade.

Picture Books

The Matatu The Matatu
Written by Eric Walters
Illustrated by Eva Campbell
Orca Book Publishers, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-55469-301-6
IL: Ages 5-8, RL: Grade 3
For years Kioko has watched the matatus dropping off and picking up passengers at the village market. Today, for the first time, he will climb aboard one to celebrate his fifth birthday. When Kioko sees the village dogs chase after the Matatu, his grandfather tells him an African folktale about a dog, a goat and a sheet, that explains why the dogs behave as they do.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

The Orphan Boy The Orphan Boy
Written by Tololwa Mollel
Illustrated by Paul Morin
Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2009 ©1990
ISBN: 978-1-55005-082-0
IL: Ages 5-9, RL: Grades 1-3
Winner of the 1990 Governor General’s Literary Award for Illustration, this stunning creation recounts an evocative Maasai tale about the planet Venus, known as the “Orphan Boy.” Eloquent text and rich illustrations make this a perfect read-aloud story for all ages.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Up Home 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.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged
Written by Judy Nyasha Warner
Illustrated by Richard Rudnicki
Groundwood Books, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-88899-779-1
IL: Ages 5-9, RL: Grades 2-3
Viola Desmond is an unsung hero of the North American struggles against injustice and racial discrimination whose story deserves to be widely known. Desmond’s act of refusal awakened people in the unacceptance nature of racism and began the process of bringing an end to racial segregation in Canada.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Junior & Intermediate Fiction

A Desperate Road to Freedom: The Underground Railroad Diary of Julia May Jackson 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.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Elijah of Buxton Elijah of Buxton
Written by Christopher Paul Curtis
Scholastic Canada, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-439-93647-7
IL: Ages 9-13, RL: Grade 4
Elijah is a first-generation freeborn child from Buxton, Ontario. When the town’s corrupt preacher steals money intended to buy the freedom of slaves still trapped in the U.S., Elijah sets off for nearby Detroit in pursuit of the thief.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

My Name is Phillis Wheatley: A Story of Slavery and Freedom My Name is Phillis Wheatley: A Story of Slavery and Freedom
Written by Afua Cooper
Kids Can Press, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-55337-812-9
IL: Ages 11-14, RL: Grades 5-6
Phillis Wheatley (1753 – 1784) was a slave who went on to become America’s first black poet and the first black American woman to be published. This story, written in Wheatley’s voice, tells of her journey to freedom. The book includes a prologue and an epilogue. Readers will also want to read the companion novel, My Name is Henry Bibb: A Story of Slavery and Freedom.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Underground to Canada 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.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Young Adult Fiction

Chasing Freedom 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.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Cry of the Giraffe 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.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

A Hare in the Elephant's Trunk A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk
Written by Jan L. Coates
Red Deer Press, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-88995-451-9
IL: Ages 12 and up, RL: Grade 6
In 1987, soldiers from the north invade the village of Duk Padiet where Jacob Deng lives with his family. Jacob is forced to flee with thousands of others, spending months walking through deserts and crocodile-infested rivers, only to spend years living in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. Guided by the memory of his mother and her belief in education as the key to escaping violence, Jacob survives.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Send One Angel Down Send One Angel Down
Written by Virginia Frances Schwartz
Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2005 ©2000
ISBN: 978-1-55005-140-7
IL: Ages 12 and up, RL: Grades 7-9
In this award-winning book, a young slave tries to hide the cruelties of the old South from his cousin—a light-skinned slave who is the daughter of the plantation owner.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Africans Thought of It: Amazing Innovations 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.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

All Aboard! Elijah McCoy's Steam Engine All Aboard! Elijah McCoy’s Steam Engine
(Great Idea Series)
Written by Monica Kulling
Illustrated by Bill Slavin
Tundra Books, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-88776-945-0
                               IL: Ages 5-8, RL: Grade 3
Elijah McCoy, the son of slaves, dreamed of studying mechanical engineering. In Scotland he learned everything there was to know about engines, from designing them to building them. When he returned to the United States, the only job Elijah could find was shovelling coal into a train’s firebox. Frustrated with having to stop the train to oil the engine, Elijah invented an oil cup that oiled the engine while the train was running.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

The Kids Book of Black Canadian History 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.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Singing Towards the Future: The Story of Portia White Singing Towards the Future: The Story of Portia White
(Stories of Canada)
Written by lian goodall
Illustrated by Liz Milkau
Dundurn Press, 2008 ©2004
ISBN: 978-1-89491-708-7
                               IL: Ages 10 and up, RL: Grades 5-6
This is the remarkable story of the black Nova Scotian singer’s determination, trials and triumphs as she worked towards her goal of becoming the first classical singer trained in Canada to appear on international stages.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

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Author Corner: Rosemary Sadlier

By Kate Abrams

Rosemary Sadlier Rosemary Sadlier is an author and the president of the Ontario Black History Society. Here she answers a few of our questions about engaging students and resources for educators during Black History Month.

Can you tell us a bit about your work with the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) and how educators and students can use it as a resource?

As the volunteer president of the OBHS, I am thrilled to know that everyone uses the OBHS as a resource [when] celebrating February as Black History Month! It was through the OBHS that this important celebration was first formalized with the City of Toronto 35 years ago. The OBHS has since provided Black history presentations in schools; created and made available a number of travelling exhibits; issued the Official OBHS Black History Month poster since 1980; created the first Black history film, A Proud Past, A Promising Future; mentored students from various local and international colleges and universities; and partnered with the Royal Ontario Museum and other heritage organizations locally, regionally and internationally on conferences/exhibits; as well as many other initiatives.

The OBHS has a small resource centre, an oral history collection, and is a place where students can do all or part of their volunteer hours. The OBHS also has the most visited Facebook site of all provincial heritage organizations and [the most visited] African Canadian website in North America.

You have a background in education. Do you have any suggestions for teachers on how to engage young people on the topic of Black history in Canada?

Students, young people, are curious. They want to know about their stories and the stories of others. They want to know why things are the way they are. They idolize figures from music or sports (where African Canadians/African Americans have higher visibility). They are grappling with their identities…I think that we can draw on so many modern issues and connect them to aspects of Black history that it can help to keep it meaningful and relevant for young people. I think that [people] might be amazed to know that Toronto had a Black Mayor or that there have been people making contributions to developments where they may live that they had never heard of.

In terms of curriculum connections, there are so many ways to refer to aspects of Black history—through understanding history and identity and through people and environments (gr. 1-6); or through using the inquiry process and analytical skills that Ontario students require for Social Studies, History and Geography (gr. 7-8). [Learning about Black history] feeds and supports [students] developing understanding of what citizenship is and what it entails. It can inform the development of what equity and inclusion have been like and what they currently are like. I feel that Black history informs and defines diversity.

What books (including your own) would you recommend for young readers learning about Canadian Black history?

I am pleased with the books that I have been honoured to craft. They include:

Harriet Tubman: Freedom Seeker, Freedom Leader, which has been selected for the Preliminary List for consideration for the 2013 Information Book Award in Canada, and is on the (U.S.) National Council for the Social Sciences reference list.

– The Government of Nova Scotia featured Black History: Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas on their home page, and it will be used in all Nova Scotian schools.

The Kids Book of Black Canadian History was ranked number one in children’s literature by Quill & Quire in October 2003, and was nominated for the Silver Birch Award, the Hackmatack Award, the Red Cedar Award and other international awards (e.g. White Raven Award—Germany).

There are also a number of excellent picture books that help in framing what the Underground Railroad might have been like or how individual legacy makers have fared—I could not begin to mention them all.

The OBHS has, however, created a listing of books as a reference for educators, parents and students. The Africentric Resource was compiled with funds from the [Ontario] Ministry of Education and is available from the OBHS.

What do you find surprises young students the most about Black history during your presentations?

There are many “surprises”! One might be the reality that I was born in Canada! However, the biggest surprise might be that there truly is a long-standing African presence in this country, which was once underscored by the offering of the Mathieu DaCosta Awards programme, so-called for the first named African in Canada. He was here by 1604 with Samuel de Champlain and helped to facilitate trade between the First Nations and Europeans and was a member of the Order of Good Cheer.

Another surprise might be that the people who made themselves free on the Underground Railroad did not all return to the U.S. once enslavement of Africans ended…

Is there a “quintessential read” for Black History Month?

The Kids Book of Black Canadian History!

Thank you to Rosemary Sadlier for taking the time to answer our questions. You can find out more about the Ontario Black History Society at

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Classroom Activity Suggestion: Creating a Canadian History Card

You can use The Kids Book of Black Canadian History by Rosemary Sadlier for this activity, or visit Students can choose one Canadian personality from the Black community and create a “history card” of that person. Each card should contain the following:

  • a photograph of the personality
  • a brief description of that person’s background and achievements
  • a quotation either by the person or about the person
  • an interesting piece of information about the person that goes beyond basic information

The research can be presented on a 3″ by 5″ index card. Cards can be traded among classmates and mounted in the classroom.

Thank you to Historica Canada for providing this activity. You can download their complete Black History in Canada education guide here.

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INSPIRE! The Toronto International Book Fair – Opportunities for Teachers and Schools

The CCBC is excited to share this information with you from our friends at INSPIRE! The Toronto Internatonal Book Fair.

Come one, come all: join book lovers at the inaugural INSPIRE! The Toronto International Book Fair, the latest celebration of all things literary to hit Canada! (Nov 13—16, 2014).

From the Children’s Courtyard & Activity Zone, full of lively, interactive programming including readings, creative crafts, song and dance, to the Young Adult & New Adult Area, jam-packed with author chats, signings, writing workshops and more, there’s something to inspire readers of all ages, abilities and interests!

Other Featured Areas sure to educate and enthrall include the Digital and New Media Zone, and the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literary Circle. Enroll your class into one of the Creative Writing workshops, or bring them down for a chance to meet authors, learn about all facets of the book industry, and participate in events just for them!

A full list of INSPIRE’s dynamic workshops and programs will be available in the coming months.

Any teachers who are interested in bussing their classes down should contact Nicola Dufficy, Director of Programming & Operations, at

For more information, visit, tweet @InspireTIBF or contact Maddy Curry at

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Out Now: Winter 2014 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News

Book News With the national launch of the movie Hold Fast, based on Kevin Major’s award-winning book, the latest issue of CCBN looks at the ups and downs of movie adaptations of Canadian books – the successes, the obstacles and the horror stories.

This issue also features a plea for school librarians; a profile of “Rodeo Writer” David Poulsen; Amy’s Marathon of Books; TD Canadian Children’s Book Week and reviews of over 35 new books.

Check your local newsstand or purchase it on our website.

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Next Month…

The March 2014 issue of our newsletter will be inspired by International Woman’s Day, which is on Saturday, March 8. If you have any suggestions or feedback, don’t hesitate to contact us!