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Children & Youth Books that Celebrate Black History Month

This list is just a small selection of lovely books to help you celebrate Black History Month with your child and youth.  We hope these will inspire and excite young readers to learn and grow with us!

Dear Canada, A Desperate Road to Freedom: The Underground Railroad Diary of Julia May Jackson (Ages 8+): A riveting tale of a brave family’s last bid for freedom, and the price they pay to find it. Julia May and her family have done the unthinkable. They have fled from their life of slavery on a tobacco plantation in Virginia, and are making their way north, on foot, where they have heard that slaves can live free. Their story, told through Julia May’s journal entries, is gruelling. Their journey takes them through swamps, travelling by night and hiding by day. It is a harrowing, terrifying experience, but determination to find a new life in Canada keeps them going.

I Am Enough by Grace Byers  and illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo (Ages 4-8):  A #1 New York Times bestseller and Goodreads Choice Awards picture book winner.  This gorgeous, lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another comes from Empire actor and activist Grace Byers and talented artist Keturah A. Bobo.

Can I Touch Your Hair? by Irene Latham and Charles Waters and illustrated Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (Ages 8+): Two poets, one white and one black, explore race and childhood in this must-have collection tailored to provoke thought and conversation.  How can Irene and Charles work together on their fifth grade poetry project? They don’t know each other . . . and they’re not sure they want to.

Ella Queen of Jazz by Helen Hancocks (Ages 5-8):Ella Fitzgerald sang the blues and she sang them good. Ella and her fellas were on the way up! It seemed like nothing could stop her, until the biggest club in town refused to let her play… and all because of her colour. But when all hope seemed lost, little did Ella imagine that a Hollywood star would step in to help.

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles and illustrated by George Ford, Scholastic Inc. (Ages 4-8):  In 1960, six-year-old Ruby Bridges moved form Mississippi to New Orleans with her family in search of a better life. But when a judge tells Ruby she has to attend Grade 1 at William Frantz Elementary, an all-white school, Ruby is met with an angry mob of parents who don’t want their kids to attend school with her.  Told with Robert Coles’ powerful narrative and dramatically illustrated by George Ford, Ruby’s story of courage, faith, and hope continues to resonate more than 60 years later.

Skin Like Mine by Latashia M Perry (Ages 4-7): From the Creators of Hair Like Mine, Skin Like Mine, the second book in the Kids Like Mine Series, is a fun, easy-to-read for beginners as well as advanced readers. An entertaining yet creative way to address and celebrate diversity among young children. Guaranteed to make you smile and a bit hungry.

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry (Author), Vashti Harrison (Illustrator): It’s up to Daddy to give his daughter an extra-special hair style in this ode to self-confidence and the love between fathers and daughters, from Academy-Award winning director and former NFL wide receiver Matthew A. Cherry and New York Times bestselling illustrator Vashti Harrison. Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it’s beautiful. When Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn. But he LOVES his Zuri, and he’ll do anything to make her — and her hair — happy.

Josephine: The dazzling life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Christian Robinson, Chronicle Books (Ages 10-13):  Josephine Baker, possibly one of the most iconic figures of the Jazz Age in the 1920s, was a singer and entertainer who advocated for Civil Rights. This picture book depicts how Josephine worked her way through the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world.

Children's book

Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box by Michael S. Brandy and Eric Stein and illustrated by James E. Ransome, Candlewick Press (Ages 5-8):Life on the farm with Granddaddy is full of hard work, but despite all the chores, Granddaddy always makes time for play, especially fishing trips. Even when there isn’t a bite to catch, he reminds young Michael that it takes patience to get what’s coming to you. One morning, when Granddaddy heads into town in his fancy suit, Michael knows that something very special must be happening.

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, Scholastic Press (Ages 4-8):  A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist.  Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom.

The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrator Rafael López  (Ages 5-8): On a dreary, stuck-inside kind of day, a brother and sister heed their grandmother’s advice: “Use those beautiful and brilliant minds of yours. Lift your arms, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and believe in a thing. Somebody somewhere at some point was just as bored you are now.” And before they know it, their imaginations lift them up and out of their boredom.

Children's book

Africa is my Home: A Child of the Amistad by Monica Edinger and illustrated by Robert Byrd, Candlewick Press (Ages 10+): Magulu, born in Africa, was taken captive aboard the Amistad, a Spanish slavery ship when she was nine years old. This first-person narrative is a fictional tale about loss, courage, love and forgiveness.

Black Birds in the Skyby Brandy Colbert: A searing new work of nonfiction from award-winning author Brandy Colbert about the history and legacy of one of the most deadly and destructive acts of racial violence in American history: the Tulsa Race Massacre. Winner, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. In the early morning of June 1, 1921, a white mob marched across the train tracks in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and into its predominantly Black Greenwood District—a thriving, affluent neighborhood known as America’s Black Wall Street. They brought with them firearms, gasoline, and explosives.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Ages 10+): Jacqueline Woodson’s National Book Award and Newbery Honor winner isa powerful memoir that tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verseRaised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world.