Books·Black History Month

8 must-read Canadian books for children and young adults during Black History Month

Here are eight children's and young reader books featuring Black Canadian protagonists and characters.

Looking for a book to read during Black History Month with your kids? Here are eight children's and young reader books featuring Black Canadian protagonists and characters. 

Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley

Sarah Raughley is a YA writer and the author of Fate of Flames. (Melanie Gillis, Simon Pulse)

Sarah Raughley's YA novel Fate of Flames features four girls of diverse backgrounds with the power to control the elements and who must come together to save the world from a terrible evil. It is the first novel of The Effigies series of books.

If This Is Freedom by Gloria Ann Wesley

Gloria Ann Wesley is an author of books of poetry and historical novels. (Roseway)

In the Black settlement of Birchtown, times are especially hard for the former slaves. Set during the American Revolutionary War, this is a historical fiction work about survival and the struggle for Loyalist settlers in Nova Scotia.

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis

Christopher Paul Curtis wrote The Journey of Little Charlie, a middle-school adventure novel. (Arden Wray, Scholastic Canada)

Charlie's father is dead and so are his crops. To make ends meet, Charlie takes a job hunting down three thieves. Tracking the thieves to Detroit, Charlie discovers they are actually escaped slaves. The Journey of Little Charlie asks tough questions of the reader and its protagonist, who struggles with doing what's right in a time of great evil.

Malaika's Winter Carnival by Nadia L. Hohn

Nadia L. Hohn is the author of Malaika's Winter Carnival. (Elizabeth Dungan, Groundwood Books)

Featuring illustrations from Irene Luxbacher, this picture book about a young newcomer to Canada is by Toronto-based author Nadia L. Hohn. Malaika has just moved to Canada, where everything is different. It's cold, no one understands when she talks and Carnival is not the celebration it was back home. 

Mayann's Train Ride by The Honourable Mayann Francis

The Honourable Mayann Francis is the author of Mayann's Train Ride. (

This book for younger readers, penned by Nova Scotia's first Black Lieutenant Governor Mayann Francis and with illustrations from Tamara Thiebaux-Heikalo, features young Mayann and her family who are travelling from their home in Cape Breton to New York City by train. Everything is exciting to the young girl, from beds that fold down to the stop in Montreal to visit friends. 

Oscar Lives Next Door by Bonnie Farmer

Bonnie Farmer is an elementary school teacher, children's author and playwright living in Montreal. (Owlkids)

When childhood tuberculosis weakened his lungs, young Oscar Peterson has to give up trumpet. He decides to take up piano, and the rest is history. Oscar Lives Next Door is a fictional story that imagines the childhood life of the internationally renowned jazz pianist.

Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker

Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker won the Canada Council Children's Literature Prize in 1979. (Penguin)

This historical fiction work for younger readers, about a girl who escapes to Canada via the Underground Railroad, features an introduction by novelist Lawrence Hill.

Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged by Jody Nyasha Warner

Jody Nyasha Warner is the author of Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged. (Groundwood Books)

In Nova Scotia, in 1946, an usher in a movie theatre told Viola Desmond to move from her main floor seat up to the balcony. She refused. This nonfiction book, with illustrations from Richard Rudnicki, chronicles the life of the Canadian civil rights pioneer.


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