8 kids books recommendations that centre Black joy

February is a great time to continue learning about Black identities, cultures and heritages since it is Black History Month. As someone who is not Black, but who has, as a teacher librarian, chosen books to ensure children learn about each other and learn empathy, I too, am interested in taking this time to continue listening and learning. Books can help us on this journey. It’s important to consider ‘what’ type of stories we are sharing with young people. We need to ensure that we offer a balanced perspective which, most importantly, centres Black Joy, which I think these new book recommendations provide.

-Rabia Khokhar


By Brittany J. Thurman, Illus. Anna Cunha

Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 40 pages, $22.99

Africa decides to join a local double dutch community competition. The only thing is that she does not actually know how to skip double dutch! Her family, friends and community each teach her a specific skill that prepares her for the big day. Africa’s personality and the playful illustrations are engaging.

Remember to Dream, Ebere

By Cynthia Erivo, Illus. Charnelle Pinkney Barlow

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 40 pages, $23.99

A heartwarming story about the mother and daughter bond. Ebere loves to dream but she has a hard time staying asleep at night. As she wakes up multiple times during the night, her mother reminds her to go back to sleep, dream some more and tell her about her findings.

Welcome to the Cypher

By Khodi Dill, Illus. Awuradwoa Afful

Annick Press, 32 pages, $21.95

An upbeat and interactive story about the power of rap and how it brings joy, love, happiness and connection to community members. The uplifting words and bright illustrations model for readers the importance of being yourself, speaking your truths, listening and supporting others.

Everybody in the Red Brick Building

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By Anne Wynter, Illus. Oge Mora

HarperCollins, 32 pages, $21.99

A perfect bedtime story that follows a chain reaction of noises that wake up everyone in the red brick building. Baby Izzie’s crying wakes up the next door parrot and so on. A charming book that shows the intricacies of city life and the experiences of living in an apartment building.

Change Sings

By Amanda Gorman, Illus. Loren Long

Penguin Young Readers, 32 pages, $24.99

An important book that reminds us that we can all create positive change in our communities. If and when we are met with difficulties we are reminded that, “I don’t build a taller fence, but fight to build a better bridge.” Our actions matter and can have a ripple effect.

Marley and the Family Band

By Cedella Marley, Illus. Tracey Baptiste

Random House Children’s Books, 40 pages, $23.99

Marley moves to a new country and knows that life as she knows it is about to change. So she plans a concert as a way to make friends in her neighbourhood. But the rain ruins her plans. Marley learns the powerful role music plays in bringing people and communities together.

Jayden’s Impossible Garden

By Melina Mangal, Illus. Ken Daley

Free Spirit Publishing, 40 pages, $25.50

Jayden loves nature! He loves playing outside and reading books all about nature. His mom does not think that there is any nature in the city. With the support of his friend Mr. Curtis, Jayden helps his mom think about and see the different ways nature is all around them.

The Year We Learned to Fly

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By Jacqueline Woodson, Illus. Rafael Lopez

Penguin Young Readers, 32 pages, $24.99

A brother and sister are stuck inside on a rainy day feeling bored. Their grandmother reminds them to use their imagination to lift themselves out of their boredom. Through this skill, they learn the importance of using their brilliant minds to imagine and work toward something better, just like their ancestors.

Rabia Khokhar is a teacher with the Toronto District School Board.


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