After returning to writing and delving into publishing this fall, I started looking for community. I realized I didn’t know many Black Canadian writers, or children’s books that dealt with the experience of living in Canada.
Since it’s gift-buying season for many people, I thought I’d put together a list of Black Canadian authors (writers from Canada or living in Canada) who’ve written children’s books in English. Some are traditionally published, while others are indie authors. Due to my own limitations, this list isn’t exhaustive. But it’s a start.
Some notes: I tried to provide a mix of books so it isn’t all racism and slavery and civil rights (although those books are important, too). I took the publisher’s description and edited for length in order to keep this post reasonable. Reminder: There are more books than what’s listed here.
(To those readers in Canada: I humbly suggest visiting not-amazon.ca to order your books from a local bookshop in Toronto, Calgary or Halifax.)
Malaika’s Winter Carnival
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. Readers of the first Malaika book will want to find out what happens when she moves to Canada, and will enjoy seeing Malaika and her family once again depicted through Irene Luxbacher’s colorful collage illustrations.
A Likkle Miss Lou: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett Coverley Found Her Voice
Louise Bennett Coverley, better known as Miss Lou, was an iconic poet and entertainer known for popularizing the use of patois in music and poetry internationally — helping to pave the way for artists like Harry Belafonte and Bob Marley to use patois in their work. This picture book tells the story of Miss Lou’s early years, when she was a young girl growing up in Jamaica.
It’s Carnival time. The first Carnival since Malaika’s mother moved away to find a good job and provide for Malaika and her grandmother. Her mother promised she would send money for a costume, but when the money doesn’t arrive, will Malaika still be able to dance in the parade?
A Piece of Black Cake for Santa
Femi and her friends planned to leave some traditional Caribbean treats out for Santa, including Black Cake. The children shared warm wishes for their favourite dishes while enjoying winter activities at the Christmas fair.
My Soca Birthday Party: with Jollof Rice and Steel Pans
As Anne’s birthday drew close, her friends prepared a soca party. Anne loves the sound of Caribbean soca music played on steel pans and West Africa’s spicy jollof rice. Hence, her friends planned to celebrate her special day with a fusion of sounds and traditional dishes from Caribbean and African countries — a representation of their diverse yet comparable cultures. Anne was in for a real surprise.
Miles Away In The Caribbean
Miles Away In The Caribbean is a poetically written story about a Canadian boy named Miles. In his magical spaceship, he visits Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago. Miles highlights magnificent landmarks and enjoyed his cultural adventures.
The Stone Thrower
Chuck Ealey grew up poor in a racially segregated community that was divided from the rest of town by a set of train tracks, but his mother assured him that he wouldn’t stay in Portsmouth forever. Education was the way out, but what would it take to get there?
Nana’s Cold Days
Nana is coming to visit from Africa, and grandsons Ken and Rama have been looking forward to her visit for months. But it’s icy cold when she arrives, and all she can do is drape herself in bed covers. No one can dream up a way to entice Nana from her nest until she becomes ill. When Nana feels better she quickly takes the situation in hand and solves everyone’s problems once and for all.
When a young girl visits the site of Africville, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the stories she’s heard from her family come to mind. Africville was a vibrant Black community for more than 150 years. But even though its residents paid municipal taxes, they lived without running water, sewers, paved roads and police, fire-truck and ambulance services. In the 1960s, city officials decided to demolish the community, moving people out in city dump trucks and relocating them in public housing. Today, Africville has been replaced by a park, where former residents and their families gather each summer to remember their community.
The Walking Bathroom
It’s Halloween and Amayah doesn’t have a costume to wear to school. She dressed as a ghost for the last three years in a row, witches are overdone, and fairies are not her style. She wants to be something different, something creative, something no one else in the world has ever been in the history of Halloween. A sweet story of standing out and fitting in.
This touching poem portrays the Nova Scotian community of Preston. Short, staccato lines, musicality and the use of real, spoken language, and Susan Tooke’s breathtaking illustrations using real models from the community, combine in a sensory experience that is sure to wow readers of all ages. Grant’s memories of growing up reflect a magical place where landscape, food, history and, most of all, people come together in a community filled with love and beauty. A powerful story with positive images of one of Nova Scotia’s most important black communities.
Christopher, Please Clean Up Your Room!
Although Christopher is a good boy and helps others in many ways, he simply refuses to obey the one specific request that he clean up his room, but when the cockroaches and the goldfish join forces, Christopher soon learns a valuable lesson.
A Touch of the Zebras
“I’m allergic to school!” Chelsea tells her mother. This story, for children ages five to eight, is playful, touching, sensitive and groundbreaking. It has all the elements that make a child excited, interested, and eager to know “what happens next?” The main character, Chelsea, is the focus of the attention of the adults in her world. They are concerned about what ails her and why she thinks that she is “allergic to school.” Chelsea is suffering from “a touch of the zebras.” The reader learns that this “touch of the zebras” is connected to Chelsea’s mixed-race parentage.
Play Mas’! A Carnival ABC
Join us to jump up on J’ouvert morning! You are invited to Play Mas’ and enjoy a Caribbean Carnival. Whether you are taking part in Trinidad or Toronto, Barbados or Brooklyn, Carnival is a joyous chance to sing, dance, and celebrate life. In this book, each vibrant painting presents a different aspect of Carnival. Detailed information about the celebrations makes it a useful resource as well as an opportunity to share in the fun. There is even a hidden letter to find in each painting.
Curtain Up! A Book for Young Performers
Amaya has been chosen for the lead role in a professional play. Through her journey, readers will experience the audition process, rehearsals, costume fittings, the memory work, and the thrill of a performance. Includes theater terms, and introduces various jobs of people behind the scenes.
Kafiya Meets the Moon
Imagination comes to life in this story of a little girl fascinated with the moon. When Kafiya’s Auntie Yaya tells her that the full moon has a face, Kafiya goes in search of the moon to see if it can talk. Kafiya’s story will warm every mother’s heart while inspiring their children to believe in the impossible. Enter Kafiya’s world where anything you can imagine is within your reach.
Purpose Finds His Gift
Purpose Finds His Gift is a heartwarming tale about finding that special person inside of you. As Purpose, the son of the Universe sets out on a journey to discover his special gift; he learns that he has carried it with him all along. A coming of age story, Purpose Finds His Gift will teach children about finding their own special talent and listening to the voice within.
The Amazing Zoe: A Queen Like Me!
Meet Zoe and Kaitlyn, two girls who love playing together. Their favourite game is dress-up and one day, the girls decide to be royals. Their playdate takes a turn when Kaitlyn refuses to let Zoe be the princess because she has never seen a princess like her before.
Zoe runs home, upset and confused, not realizing that she is about to embark on another amazing journey. This time she will begin to discover some interesting things about princesses from the past. See how Zoe’s parents, through kindness and understanding turn this disagreement between the girls into a teaching moment for them both.
The Amazing Zoe : Defeats The Germie Germlins
When the Germie Germlins invade planet Earth, they attack people and make them sick. Nothing seems to stop them, so the mayor of Niceville announces a lockdown — no school, no work, no going outside!
Zoe is upset because she doesn’t want to spend the summer away from her friends… but then she accidentally activates a powerful forcefield that keeps the Germie Germlins away from her!
Imani Goes to School
This beautifully illustrated children’s book features a young girl who experiences anxiety on her first day of school. From self-doubt to fear, Imani isn’t sure how the day will unfold. Luckily, Mom is close by as she faces her fears. As time runs out and Imani must leave her home, the reader ventures with her to see if she will feel better. Filled with lessons about mental wellness, parenting, and cultural diversity, Imani Goes to School is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
Christiano’s Blue Christmas
Venture to Brazil, feel the fun of the holidays, and experience a sweet unbreakable bond between a grandparent and his grandchild, Christiano. Although Christiano feels blue this Christmas with the death of his grandfather, he moves through the holidays with fond memories of Grandpa , the togetherness of family, the support of his best friend and his grandmother, and Biscuit, the family dog. The adjustment to life without Grandpa is a difficult yet magical one.
Anisha Angella: Zoey Has an Allergy
Jody Nyasha Warner: Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged!
Bonnie Farmer: Oscar Lives Next Door: A Story Inspired by Oscar Peterson’s Childhood
Ekiuwa Aire: Idia of the Benin Kingdom
Tiyahna Ridley-Padmore: Trailblazers: The Black Pioneers Who Have Shaped Canada
Cymanthia Connell and Adam Ali: Samia and Her Electric Toothbrush and Samia’s First Day at Gymnastics: A book to help children overcome their fears
Omarr Williamson: Your Life Matters
Chanelle Thorpe: Hair, There, Everywhere
Alison Isaac: Kookumbah
Tasha Lowe: Just Genios — Chloe Goes to the Zoo
Jeff A.D. Martin: Brothers from The 6: Role Models In My Community
Ndija Anderson-Yantha: What Are You Gonna Do with that Hair?
Denise Lopes: A kid’s guide to being a Mermaid
Shanice Nicole: Dear Black Girls
Karen Pessoa: Cam’s Sneakers
C.S. Drummond: Earthbred: This Light of Mine
Alisia Dale: Sela Blue
Garry Hess: The ABCs of a Hungry Belly: A Jamdown Junction Adventure