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Reading is Power: Black History Month

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This Black History Month, celebrate black voices and representation in children’s books. Here at World Book Day, we want to share more diverse stories where all identities are given voice. There is still work to be done, and we want to see more future representation of black identities in children’s fiction. But we believe change can start anywhere, and for us it starts with books. 

Here is a list of some of our favourite books by Black authors and illustrators for all ages, to start you off on your reading journey… Do let us know your own favourites, too!

Picture Books: 

Luna Loves Library Day, by Joseph Coelho and Fiona Lumbers, published by Andersen Press 

Every week Luna looks forward to one special day: the day when she discovers magic among the library shelves; the day she gets to spend with her dad. Exploring the books, Luna and her dad find magic, mystery and even start to mend their own history. An inspiring story from one of the UK’s greatest up-and-coming award-winning poets for children, perfectly captured in all its flights of fancy by newcomer Fiona Lumbers.

My Hair, by Hannah Lee, illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan and published by Faber & Faber

My birthday’s coming up so soon, I’ll need new clothes to wear. But most of all, I need to know, How shall I style my hair? Will it be dreads or a twist out? Braids or a high-top fade? Joyous and vibrant, this captures perfectly the excitement of getting ready for a celebration, as well as showcasing a dazzling array of intricate hairstyles.

This is a glorious debut from an exciting new partnership who both emerged from the FAB Prize for undiscovered BAME writers and illustrators.

Sulwe, by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison, published by Penguin Random House 

From Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o comes a powerful, moving picture book about colourism, self-esteem and learning that true beauty comes from within.

Sulwe’s skin is the colour of midnight. She’s darker than everyone in her family, and everyone at school. All she wants is to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey through the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.

Look Up, by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola, published by Penguin Random House

Rocket’s going to be the greatest astronaut, star-catcher, space-traveller that has ever lived!

But…

First, she needs to convince her big brother Jamal to stop looking down at his phone and start LOOKING UP at the stars.

Bursting with energy and passion about space and the natural world, this heart-warming picture book will reignite your desire to turn off those screens and switch on to the outside world.

B is for Baby, by Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank, published by Walker

Baby’s brother is getting ready to take a basket of bananas all the way to Baba’s bungalow in the next village. What he doesn’t realize is that his cute, very curious baby sister is secretly coming along for the amazing bicycle ride, too!

From the creators of Baby Goes to Market comes a beautiful, bright first book of words. Children will love sounding out the words in this playful, adventurous and vibrantly-illustrated story set in West Africa.

Coming to England, by Floella Benjamin and Diane Ewen, published by Pan Macmillan

The inspiring true story of Baroness Floella Benjamin: from Trinidad, to London as part of the Windrush generation, to the House of Lords.

Follow ten-year-old Floella as she and her family set sail from the Caribbean to a new life in London. Coming to England wasn’t at all what Floella had expected . . . What will her new school be like? Will she meet the Queen?

Filled with optimism and joy, yet deeply personal and relevant, young children will resonate with Floella’s experiences of moving home and making friends. This powerful story shows little people how courage and determination can always overcome adversity.

Middle Grade: 

High-Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson, published by Knights Of

We’re so excited that this will be the first book featured in our World Book Day Book Club, launching in March 2021. 

Summer in London is hot, the hottest on record, and there’s been a murder in THE TRI: the high-rise home to resident know-it-alls, Nik and Norva. Who better to solve the case?

Armed with curiosity, home-turf knowledge and unlimited time – until the end of the summer holidays anyway. The first whodunnit in a new mystery series by Sharna Jackson.

 

Black and British: A Short, Essential History, by David Olusoga, published by Pan Macmillan 

A short, essential introduction to Black British history for readers of 12+ by award-winning historian and broadcaster David Olusoga.

An essential introduction to 1800 years of the Black British history, Black and British looks at everything from the Roman Africans who guarded Hadrian’s Wall right up to the present day. This new children’s version of the bestseller Black and British: A Forgotten History is Illustrated with maps, photos and portraits.

 

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile and published by Andersen Press

12-year-old Josh and his twin Jordan have basketball in their blood. They’re kings of the court, star players for their school team. Their father used to be a champion player and they want nothing more than to follow in his footsteps. But there is conflict and hardship which will test Josh’s bond with his brother. See the Bell family in a whole new light through Dawud Anyabwile’s dynamic illustrations as the brothers’ winning season unfolds, and the world as they know it begins to change.

 

 

Granny Ting Ting, by Patrice Lawrence, published by Bloomsbury

Nine-year-old Michael is coming from London to Trinidad to visit his grandmother, who is recovering from a difficult operation, and his ten-year-old cousin, Shayla. A fierce rivalry develops between the two
children and everything becomes a competition – who can eat the hottest food, climb the tallest tree, tell the spookiest story. Michael wins each time. Shayla thought she was special, but everything she can do, Michael can do so much better. Luckily Shayla’s mum has a plan that will make Shayla realise her own good qualities, and cheer up her poor old granny in the process…

Ways to Make Sunshine, by Renee Watson, published by Bloomsbury

The Harts are an everyfamily – a family with siblings who bicker, parents who don’t always get it right, but a family that loves. A family working hard to make it in tough economic times, a family with traditions and culture, a family that tries new things. This is a black family growing up in middle class America. And Ryan is a girl who has much on her mind – school, family, friends, self-image – but who knows how to make sunshine out of setbacks.

Packed with humour and heart alongside meaningful and thoughtful moments, Ryan Hart is the character everyone will want to be best friends with.

 

Blended by Sharon M Draper, published by Simon & Schuster

Isabella’s parents are divorced, so she has to switch lives every week: one week she’s Isabella with her dad, the next week she’s Izzy with her mom.

Isabella feels completely stuck in the middle, split and divided between them more than ever. Being split between Mom and Dad involves more than switching houses, switching nicknames: it’s also about switching identities. What does it mean to be half white or half black? To belong to half mom and half dad? And if you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole?

It seems like nothing can bring Isabella’s family together again-until the worst thing happens. Isabella and Darren are stopped by the police. A cell phone is mistaken for a gun. And shots are fired.

Teen and Young Adult:

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, published by Pan Macmillan

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.

Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. 

When a chance encounter brings her face to face with a rogue princess, Zélie finds herself on a mission to restore what was stolen from her people and claim her birth right.

A fierce and unflinching saga of divided love, belief and legacy. The first in an epic fantasy series, interweaving the influences of West African myth with unforgettable characters and expert world-building.

Crongton Nights by Alex Wheatle, published by Little, Brown Book Group

Living on the South Crongton council estate has its worries – and life for McKay has been even tougher since his mum died.

His dad has been working all hours to keep the bailiffs from their door. His brother is always out riding the streets at night, tempting trouble. And now, having strayed off his turf on a ‘heroic’ (if misguided) mission to help out a girl, McKay finds himself facing a friend’s crazy ex-boyfriend, some power-tripping hood-rats and a notoriously violent gangster with a vendetta which hits too close to home. Poor McKay.

He never asked for trouble… But during one madcap night of adventure and danger, he will find out who his true friends are and what it means to stick with your family.

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam, published by Harper Collins

One fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighbourhood escalates into tragedy. At just sixteen years old, Amal Shahid’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it? 

With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo, published by Hot Key Books

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But  on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where she is told that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash. Separated by distance – and Papi’s secrets – the two girls face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. When it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

In a dual narrative novel in verse brimming with grief and love, Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko, published by Hot Key Books

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady.

The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of Eleven. If picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust.

Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn – but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, published by Walker

A powerful, gripping and piercingly relevant YA novel about inequality, police violence, 21st century prejudice and one girl’s struggle for justice.

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer.

Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman, published by Penguin 

Sephy is a Cross: she lives a life of privilege and power. But she’s lonely, and burns with injustice at the world she sees around her.

Callum is a nought: he’s considered to be less than nothing – a blanker, there to serve Crosses – but he dreams of a better life.

They’ve been friends since they were children, and they both know that’s as far as it can ever go. Noughts and Crosses are fated to be bitter enemies – love is out of the question.

Then – in spite of a world that is fiercely against them – these star-crossed lovers choose each other.

But this is love story that will lead both of them into terrible danger . . . and which will have shocking repercussions for generations to come.

Oh My Gods by Alexandra Sheppard, published by Scholastic

Life as a half-mortal teenager should be epic. But, for Helen Thomas, it’s tragic. She’s just moved in with her dorky dad and self-absorbed older siblings – who happen to be the ancient Greek gods, living incognito in London!

Between keeping her family’s true identities secret, trying to impress her new friends, and meeting an actually cute boy, Helen’s stress levels are higher than Mount Olympus. She needs to rein in her chaotic family before they blow their cover AND her chances at a half-normal social life. Or is Helen fated for an embarrassment of mythical proportions?

A Change is Gonna Come by various authors, published by Little Tiger Press

Featuring top Young Adult authors and introducing a host of exciting new voices, this anthology of stories and poetry from BAME writers on the theme of change is a long-overdue addition to the YA scene. 

Contributors include Tanya Byrne, Inua Ellams, Catherine Johnson, Patrice Lawrence, Ayisha Malik, Irfan Master, Musa Okwonga and Nikesh Shukla. Plus introducing four fresh new voices in YA fiction: Mary Bello, Aisha Bushby, Yasmin Rahman and Phoebe Roy.

 

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World Book Day is a charity funded by publishers and booksellers in the UK and Ireland.