In celebration of Black History Month, we recommend some books that celebrate Black culture and feature characters that go on a journey of self-exploration.
Welcome to the Cypher by Khodi Dill, illustrated by Awuradwoa Afful
Khodi Dill is a Bahamian-Canadian writer of everything from rap songs to children’s literature. His book Welcome to the Cypher is a gleeful celebration of rap, creativity, and self-expression. In the book, an elderly narrator brings kids of different ethnicities together to learn, feel, and partake in the joy that rap can bring. With the use of beatboxes and fingersnaps, he introduces the kids to the powerful possibilities of rap, from turning “a simple phrase/into imagery that soars” to proclaiming, “this is a voice that represents me!” Very soon, all the kids have let go of their inhibitions and are soaring to the beat and tune of rap music. Illustrator Awuradwoa Afful lends just the right amount of vibrancy and energy to the artwork, which makes the words – perfect for reading aloud – really pop up and bounce off the page. Grades Preschool-2
Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas
Middle-grader Bree is new to her school Enith Brigitha, home to the Mighty Manatees and because of that she has to take the only elective that fits her schedule, the dreaded Swim 101. The Manatees might be mighty in other sports, but when it comes to swimming, they’re far from it. Bree, herself, is not a great swimmer, but when she meets Etta, an elderly occupant of her apartment building and former swim team captain, things begin to change. Under the guidance of Etta and with a lot of hard work, Bree soon becomes the only hope of her swim-crazed community that’s counting on her to turn the school’s failing swim team around. To do that – and especially, to beat the rival swim team from Holyoke Prep – Bree must not only defy the odds and guide her team to a state championship, but also reach deep within herself to discover her self-confidence and can-do spirit. Vancouver-based comics creator and graphic novelist Johnnie Christmas crafts a riveting story that combines wonderful characters and history to create a story about discovering your inner strength and truly coming into your own. Grades 3-6
Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury
Liselle Sambury’s immersive, urban fantasy novel Blood Like Magic throws us deep into the world of Voya Thomas and her renowned magical family of generational witches. Voya is at that age when every witch must come into their powers by finding their calling by a trial. When it’s finally her time, she is told that her trial is to kill her first love; failure to do so means every Thomas witch will be stripped of their magic. Voya is determined to save her family’s magic no matter the cost, but she has to first start by falling in love with someone. When a genetic matchmaking program hits the market, Voya thinks all she has to do is join the program, fall in love, and complete her task before the deadline. What Voya doesn’t count on is meeting Luc, someone Voya not only begins to love but also someone who jeopardizes her whole mission: can Voya complete her duty to her family while saving Luc at the same time? Blood Like Magic is a rich and atmospheric novel that celebrates Black Girl Magic as much as it offers a fresh take on the fantasy genre. Grades 8-12