Youth Book Corner: Black Lives Matter

This week, people from the world over united in solidarity to support the Black Lives Matter movement as a response to the death of George Floyd by a police officer. It is a historic moment, not just to pledge our support to the Black Lives Matter cause but also to educate ourselves by reading more books about race. Here are just a few of them recommended by our Outreach Coordinator Leena Desai.

Let’s Talk About Race
Written by Julius Lester, illustrated by Karen Barbour

In his book Let’s Talk About Race, Julius Lester tries to normalize conversations about race for young children. He starts with the basics, such as where he was born, what were his parents’ and siblings’ names, and then moves on to other details like his hobbies, his favourite colour, his religion, and finally, his race. In doing so, Lester aims to show that in spite of the colour of our skin, we’re all the same; we have families and hobbies and favourite foods and colours. The goal of the book is to focus on the similarities in humans rather than the differences because they are what bind us together. Grades Preschool to 2

Power Poems for Small Humans

Power Poems for Small Humans is published by Flamingo Rampant, a “micropress” with a mission to publish feminist, racially-diverse, LGBTQ positive children’s books. This anthology includes poems—as the title suggests—that are meant to empower and uplift young minds. The “power” in the title alludes not just to the power of poetry, but to the power of self-worth and self-confidence. Poems by a diverse selection of writers such as Jillian Christmas, Kai Cheng Thom, Andrea Gibson, Brit Ouchida, among others, are illustrated by different artists; the bright and saturated colours meant to signal readers to lead vibrant lives full of affirmation and self-belief. Grades 3 to 7

So You Want to Talk About Race
Written by Ijeoma Oluo

Ijeoma Oluo’s New York Times bestseller takes an extremely candid and practical approach to talking about race. Each chapter addresses and answers questions such as “what is racism?”, “why am I always being told to ‘check my privilege?’”, “why can’t I touch your hair?” and “is police brutality really about race?” By breaking down the book into a series of questions and in language that is accessible, Oluo shows that true allyship comes from taking the time to ask questions, and understand and learn about sensitive issues such as police brutality, affirmative action, the model minority myth, intersectionality and more. Grades 8-12

Say Her Name
Written by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Loveis Wise

Now, more than ever, we recognize the work of Black Lives Matter activities and protestors in orchestrating change at a systemic level and this collection of poetry celebrates that work, while also honouring the memory of the victims of police brutality. Canada-born, US-based award-winning author, scholar, and activist Zetta Elliott’s collection is inspired by the #SayHerName campaign launched by the African American Policy Forum in 2015 to highlight police violence against Black women, girls and femmes.  Vividly illustrated chalk drawings accompany haikus about violence, womanhood and resistance. Grades 11-12

They Said This Would Be Fun
Written by Eternity Martis

Toronto-based, award-winning journalist Eternity Martis’s memoir should be required reading for anyone starting university. On one hand, it is the story of how one can overcome racist attacks and on the other, it is about acknowledging (and hopefully eradicating) the casual racism and cruelty that students are capable of because their views and attitudes have gone unchecked for so long. Writing from her own personal experience of being one of the few Black students at Western University in London, Ontario, where she was the target of racial slurs, tokenism, and blackface at campus parties, Martis’s story is one of resilience, courage and finding strength and support in other women of colour. Grades 11-12


Leena Desai