Marley Dias was just your average 11-year-old girl at St. Cloud elementary school in West Orange, New Jersey. But she was getting really frustrated about only being given books to read at school that she felt she couldn’t relate or connect to. So she did something about it — she launched a drive to find 1,000 “black girl books.” She started the campaign #1000BlackGirlBooks and it took off! She exceeded her goal and is donating books to other schools where students are experiencing the same frustrations she was.
Our friends over at CBC Books were inspired by her project and came up with their own list of great Canadian titles featuring black female characters to add to #1000BlackGirlBooks. Here are 7 that you should check out.
by Kathy Lowinger
Ages: 6-9 | Annick Press
The 1800s were a dangerous time to be a black girl in the United States, especially if you were born a slave. Ella Sheppard was such a girl, but her family bought their freedom and moved to Ohio where slavery was illegal. They sent Ella to school and bought her a piano. Ella became a founding member of a traveling choir, the Jubilee Singers, to help raise funds for the Fisk Free Colored School, later known as Fisk University. They travelled from Cincinnati to New York, following the Underground Railroad. With every performance they broke down barriers between blacks and whites, lifted spirits, and even helped influence modern American music.
by Lynne Kositsky
Ages: 8-12 | Puffin Books
For Rachel, the best thing about freedom is the chance to learn to read and write. But her family's joy at finally being free is dashed as they face the challenges of life in a barren land and must fight against harsh winter conditions and intolerant neighbours. Worse still, Rachel's mother is pregnant. For a brief moment Rachel wonders if they were better off as slaves. But she is determined not only to survive, but to make the most of her new life.
by Shauntay Grant
Ages: 5-10 | Nimbus Publishing
Happy memories sparkle in this journey through poet Shauntay Grant’s childhood visits to North Preston, Nova Scotia. Her words bring to life the sights, sounds, rhythms, and people of a joyful place, while Susan Tooke’s vibrant illustrations capture the warmth of one of Canada’s most important black communities. Up Home celebrates the magic of growing up, and the power in remembering our roots now in a new softcover edition.
by Shauntay Grant
Ages: 4-9 | Nimbus Publishing
Apples and Butterflies recalls a family's autumn vacation and shows Prince Edward Island in a light we don't often see — the bright blue and orange light of fall. Tamara Thiébaux-Heikalo's rich and wild illustrations build a narrative with the text, showing us the family beachcombing, flying kites and picking apples.
by Marthe Jocelyn
Ages: 8-12 | Orca Book Publishers
Malou has just turned sixteen — hardly old enough to be out in the world on her own - and all she knows for sure is that she's of mixed race and that she was left at an orphanage as a newborn. When the orphanage burns to the ground, she finds out that she may have been born in a small town in Ontario's cottage country. Much to her surprise, Parry Sound turns out to have quite a few young brown faces, but Malou can't believe they might be related to her. An Aboriginal boy named Jimmy helps her find answers to her questions about her parents.
by Judith Plaxton
Ages: 9-13 | Second Story Press
Flower and her parents are escaped slaves, going north to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Over 150 years later, Felicia is starting grade 8 at a new school in a small town in Ontario that was a terminus for the Underground Railroad. She has to write about her ancestry for a class project, but is afraid her classmates won't want to hear about slavery. Flower and her family eventually reach freedom in Canada, helped and sheltered by many. Felicia discovers that her grandfather was a porter on the railways and this point of family pride helps her face down a bully. Two girls at opposite ends of history.
by Catherine Egan
Ages 8-12 | Coteau Books
The first book in fantasy series The Last Days of Tian Di, Shade and Sorceress follows Eliza, a young woman who discovers her mother was a sorceress. The dark forces that killed her mother in battle think that Eliza is a powerful sorceress as well, but Eliza knows only that she can't do any magic. Abandoned by her strongest allies, she must rely on her own wits and common sense to succeed in her quest to rescue her father from the evil Xia Sorceress.
(with text from CBC Books)