Books

11 Canadian books for kids and young adults to check out during Black History Month 2021

Check out these children's and young adult books by Black Canadian authors.

Check out these children's and young adult books by Black Canadian authors. 

I Promise by Catherine Hernandez, illustrated by Syrus Marcus Ware

I Promise is a picture book by Catherine Hernandez (right) and illustrated by Syrus Marcus Ware. (Arsenal Pulp Press, Dahlia Katz)

I Promise is a portrayal of all the joys and challenges of parenting and a celebration of the many different forms that loving families come in.

 I Promise is for readers aged 3-8.

Catherine Hernandez is a playwright, performer and the author of the novels Scarborough and Crosshairs.

Syrus Marcus Ware is a visual artist, activist and scholar whose work has appeared in the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Globe and Mail and in Nuit Blanche. Ware is also an editor for the nonfiction book Until We Are Freewhich reflects on the Black Lives Matter movement in Canada. They contributed the piece Emmett to 21 Black Futures, which you can watch now on CBC Gem.

Where Are You, Agnes? by Tessa McWatt, illustrated by Zuzanna Celej

Where Are You, Agnes? is a picture book written by Tessa McWatt and illustrated by Zuzanna Celej. (Groundwood Books, Christine Mofardin)

In Where Are You, Agnes?, Tessa McWatt writes a story of abstract expressionist artist Agnes Martin's childhood on the Canadian Prairies and how it might have shaped her adult work. In McWatt's imagining of Martin's early life, Martin's family moves to a house in a big city, leaving behind the wheat fields and straight horizon of the prairies that she loved to capture in her paintings.

Where Are You, Agnes? is for ages 5 to 9.

McWatt is the author of novels for adults and young people. Her work in fiction has been nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award and the City of Toronto Book Award. Where Are You, Agnes? is her first picture book.

Zuzanna Celej is an illustrator based in Spain.

Hockey Night in Kenya by Danson Mutinda & Eric Walters, illustrated by Claudia Dávila

Hockey Night in Kenya is a picture book by Danson Mutinda (left) and Eric Walters (right), illustrated by Claudia Dávila (not pictured). (Kristina Laukkanen, Orca Book Publishers)

In Hockey Night in Kenyatwo orphans from Kenya, Kitoo and Nigosi, love to read, play soccer and help with chores around the orphanage. They discover a book called Sports Around the World and one of the children becomes fascinated with an image of the Canadian national men's ice hockey team. The boy teaches himself how to skate and dreams of one day playing hockey just like the players in the book. 

Hockey Night in Kenya is for ages 6-8.

Danson Mutinda is an author based in Kenya. His parents, Ruth and Henry Kyatha, co-founded the Hope Development Centre orphanage with Eric and Anita Walters in 2007.  

Eric Walters is a Canadian author of children's books.

Claudia Dávila is a Toronto-based artist and illustrator. Her other books include Super Red Riding Hood and Child Soldier, which was written by Michel Chikwanine and Jessica Dee Humphreys.

My Hair by Danielle Murrell Cox

Danielle Murrell Cox is the author of My Hair. (Submitted by Danielle Murrell Cox, HarperFestival)

Danielle Murrell Cox's debut picture book, My Hair, is a celebration of Black hair and natural hairstyles for younger readers.

My Hair is for ages 4 to 8.

Cox is a Canadian illustrator and graphic designer. With a focus on minimalist art, Cox is best known for her self-published colouring books Black Queens and Black Kings.

My Soca Birthday Party by Yolanda T. Marshall, illustrated by Subi Bosa

Yolanda T. Marshall is the author of My Soca Birthday Party: With Jollof Rice & Steel Pans. (Chalkboard Publishing, Submitted by Yolanda T. Marshall)

My Soca Birthday Party is about a young girl named Anne who can't wait to celebrate her birthday. Her school friends are excited to celebrate as well and talk about the food and music that they will experience. When the day arrives, Anne's birthday party is an evening celebration of everything Anne loves, including Caribbean soca music played on steel pans and West Africa's spicy jollof rice.

My Soca Birthday Party is for ages 3 and up.

Yolanda T. Marshall is a Guyanese Canadian author of children's books based in Ontario.

Subi Bosa is a South African children's book illustrator. 

My Hair Is Beautiful by Shauntay Grant 

My Hair Is Beautiful is a children's book by Shauntay Grant. (Nimbus Publishing, shauntaygrant.com)

Shauntay Grant's latest children's book is a celebration of natural hair. My Hair Is Beautiful is a board book that encourages self-love and self-expression.

My Hair Is Beautiful is for readers up to 3.

Grant is a Canadian writer and performance artist based in Halifax. Her children's books include Up Homewhich won the 2009 Best Atlantic-Published Book Prize, and Africvillewhich was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature – illustrated books.

Idia of the Benin Kingdom by Ekiuwa Aire, illustrated by Alina Shabelnyk

Idia of the Benin Kingdom is a picture book written by Nigerian Canadian author Ekiuwa Aire. (Our Ancestories)

Based on the real life story of Queen Idia, the traditional ruler of Benin who reigned from 1504 to 1550, picture book Idia of the Benin Kingdom explores the life of young Idia and how she realized her dreams of becoming a warrior queen. Idia of the Benin Kingdom teaches children about strength, courage and the power of believing in yourself.

Ekiuwa Aire is a Nigerian Canadian author of children's books.

Alina Shabelnyk is an illustrator and designer from Ukraine.

Facing the Sun by Janice Lynn Mather

Facing the Sun is a YA novel by Janice Lynn Mather (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Facing the Sun is a coming-of-age story set in the Bahamas. It's about four young girls — Eve, Faith, KeeKee and Nia — and the choices they are forced to make one fateful summer. When a hotel developer makes a move to buy the community's beloved beach, all four teens are faced with life decisions that might change them forever.

Facing the Sun is for ages 14 and up.

Janice Lynn Mather was born and raised in Nassau, Bahamas. She is now a novelist and short story writer based in Vancouver. She holds a BFA and MFA from the University of British Columbia. In 2018, she released her debut novel Learning to Breathe. The book was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text.

Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe

Philippe is of Haitian descent, was raised in Montreal and is now a teacher at Barnard College in New York. (Balzer + Bray, Richard Louissaint)

Charming as a Verb is a YA novel about Henri "Halti" Haltiwanger, a teen with swagger who is convinced he can charm just about anyone. As one of the most popular kids in his prestigious high school — and as the operator of a highly successful dog-walking business — Henri has it made and his dream of attending his dream college awaits. But when Henri meets Corinne Troy, a girl who sees right through his charms and exposes his less-than-ethical business practices, it becomes a battle of wits — with potential love looming on the horizon.

Charming as a Verb is for ages 12 and up.

Ben Philippe is a writer who was raised in Montreal and currently lives in New York. He published his debut novel The Field Guide to the North American Teenager in 2019. He has contributed to publications like Vanity Fair, the Guardian and Playboy. CBC Books named Philippe a writer to watch in 2019.

From the Roots Up by Tasha Spillett-Sumner, illustrated by Natasha Donovan

From the Roots Up is a graphic novel by Tasha Spillett-Sumner, illustrated by Natasha Donovan. (HighWater Press, Portage and Main)

From the Roots Up is the sequel to Surviving the City and continues the stories of characters Dez and MiikwanDez is grieving the death of his grandmother and with nowhere else to go, she stays in a group home, all while also navigating a new relationship and learning to embrace her two-spirit identity. Meanwhile, Miikwan has a crush on the school's new kid Riel, and doesn't understand what Dez is going through. Elder Linda is doing her best to be supportive, but finds it challenging when the gendered protocols she grew up with are put into question.

From the Roots Up is for ages 12 and up.

Tasha Spillett-Sumner is an educator, poet and scholar of Nehiyaw and Trinidadian descent. She is also the author of the graphic novel Surviving the City.

Natasha Donovan is a Vancouver-based illustrator whose work has appeared in The Other Side and This Place: 150 Years Retold.

Dear Black Girls by Shanice Nicole, illustrated by Kezna Dalz

Dear Black Girls is a 2021 picture book. (Metonymy Press)

Canadian poet and educator Shanice Nicole created the picture book Dear Black Girls as a letter to young Black girls to remind them of their value and worth. Featuring illustrations by Montreal artist Kezna Dalz, Dear Black Girls features the message of feeling special, unique and loved in the world. 

Dear Black Girls is for readers up to five years old.

Shanice Nicole is a Black Canadian feminist educator, facilitator, writer and spoken word artist. 

Kezna Dalz is a Montreal-based illustrator and artist. 

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