This post originally appeared on BrowniePoints Teaching.

Hi, my name is Nicole and I have a children’s book addiction! As a child, I had a voracious appetite for books; I enjoyed getting lost in the characters’ lives and in other worlds. This is in spite of the fact that I rarely saw myself represented in books beyond being a supporting character.

Today, there is so much diversity! I think it’s such an exciting time in children’s literature. This is why I spend so much time in the children’s section of libraries and bookstores — filling an unmet and unknown childhood need!

In this post, I’m excited to share some great Canadian Black History/Culture picture books. These books feature black authors, illustrators, and/or characters.

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Oscar Lives Next Door
Author: Bonnie Farmer
Illustrator: Marie Lafrance

Oscar Lives Next Door is a fictional account of Oscar Peterson’s childhood. Born in Montreal, Quebec, Oscar Peterson was an-award winning jazz pianist and composer. This story explains why Oscar gave up playing the trumpet and instead focused on playing the piano (spoiler: a bout of tuberculosis weakened his lungs).


Author: Robert Munsch
Illustrator: Dave Whamond

I own EVERY. SINGLE. BOOK. written by Robert Munsch. And he keeps releasing new titles (bye-bye $$$)!! When I saw Braids! my heart truly warmed. Little black girls can attest to the HOURS spent on hair care, whether it’s washing, combing, or braiding. The main character Ashley dreads sitting for hours while getting her hair braided and will avoid it at all costs. The longest hair-braiding session I suffered through…11 hours!

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Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged
Author: Jody Nyasha Warner
Illustrator: Richard Rudnicki

Viola Desmond won’t be budged! When faced with bigotry and discrimination she stood her ground and was unjustly arrested, charged, and convicted. The story begins by sharing VIola’s entrepreneurial achievements and the circumstances that led to her being removed from a theatre in 1940’s Nova Scotia. Growing up I heard a lot about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. I’m grateful that this picture book is helping to educate thousands of children across Canada about one of our own civil rights heroes.


Author: Shauntay Grant
Illustrator: Eva Campbell

In Africville, a little girl visits the site/land in Halifax, Nova Scotia where her ancestors lived before being forcibly removed. She imagines what life was like in the black community of Africville. The text and illustrations express the beauty and vibrancy of the community and its people. It ends with a brief overview of the history of Africville.

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Christopher, Please Clean Up Your Room
Author: Itah Sadu
Illustrator: Roy Condy

Every child can relate to not wanting to clean their room! Storyteller Itah Sadu introduces us to Christopher, a boy who refuses to clean his room despite the horrible mess and disgusting smell. Family and friends tried, but no amount of pleading, threatening, and punishments could persuade Christopher to change his mind. Finally, his goldfish and a whole lot of cockroaches join forces to convince Christopher to clean his room.

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Abigail’s Wish
Author: Gloria Ann Wesley
Illustrator: Richard Rudnicki

Abigail’s Wish is based in the 1780s in the Black Loyalist community of Birchtown, Nova Scotia. Black Loyalists found freedom in Canada through supporting the British during the American Revolutionary War. Abigail’s family struggles to make ends meet in their new colony, but she has one wish — a new dress to help celebrate a new birth.

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Malaika’s Costume
Author: Nadia L. Hohn
Illustrator: Irene Luxbacher

Set in Jamaica, Malaika’s Costume is the story of a little girl whose mother moved to Canada for better job opportunities leaving Malaika with her grandmother. It’s Carnival time on the island and Malaika waits in vain for money that her mother promised to send so that she could buy a new costume. Not satisfied by her grandmother’s old costume, Malaika is gifted with fabric scraps which she and her grandmother transform into a peacock costume.

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Malaika’s Winter Carnival
Author: Nadia L. Hohn
Illustrator: Irene Luxbacher

In this sequel to Malaika’s Costume, Malaika is preparing to join her mother and her new stepfather and stepsister in Canada. Life is not as expected: Quebec City is cold, she doesn’t understand French, and the Carnival celebration is nothing like the ones in Jamaica. Malaika also misses her grandmother. A chat with grandma helps to lift her spirits. Malaika decides to give Canada a chance. This story lends itself well to discussions about blended families and immigration.

No need to save these books for Black History Month in February, they’re great at any point of the year! I created comprehension and response activities for these books and more. You can check out the resource {here}.

Please note: * indicates Canadian author or content.

• Abigail’s Wish – Gloria Ann Wesley*
• Malaika’s Costume – Nadia L. Hohn*
• Malaika’s Winter Carnival – Nadia L. Hohn*
• Oscar Lives Next Door – Bonnie Farmer*
• Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged! – Jody Nyasha Warner*
• A Change Of Heart – Alice Walsh*
• A Good Trade – Alma Fullerton*
• Dear Baobab – Cheryl Foggo*
• French Toast – Kari-Lynn Winters*
• Braids! – Robert Munsch*
• Henry’s Freedom Box – Ellen Levine
• The Story Of Ruby Bridges – Robert Coles
• The Water Princess – Susan Verde
• Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters – John Steptoe
• Anansi The Spider – Gerald McDermott
• Why Mosquitoes Buzz In People’s Ears – Verna Aardema
• Little Red And The Very Hungry Lion – Alex T. Smith


About BrowniePoints
I have been teaching for 12 years! My first 6 years were in Kindergarten, and for the last 6 years, I have been in the 1st grade. I regularly use hands-on activities and visuals to bring unfamiliar concepts to life. I have many English language learners so this is vital. My students love centers, iPads, videos, and PowerPoint games. My favorite subjects to teach are science and math.