October is Black History Month, and all of this week’s recommendations show the lives of people growing up black in Britain throughout history.
For our younger children, I have chosen Hey You! An empowering celebration of growing up black by Dapo Adeola. This picture book was born out of Adeola’s realisation that, as a child, there were no books he saw that featured black children in a meaningful way. In Hey You! he has created a touching, empowering text that highlights the power of creativity, black heritage, community and family. Featuring illustration from 18 black artists as well as Adeola himself, this beautiful book also serves as a brilliant directory of work from black illustrators, enabling parents to look up their other books, or keep an eye out for their work in the future.
A baby is born to loving parents, and grows up – going to school, making friends. Yet it’s hard for her to find books to read containing girls that look like her. Sometimes, as she grows up, she encounters racism, and life can be very hard. Yet she is reminded that she stands on the shoulders of the great black community that has come before her – and that she has the power to be anything and anyone she wants to be.
The Place For Me: Stories About The Windrush Generation by K. N. Chimbiri, Kevin George, Salena Godden, Judy Hepburn, Ashley Hickson-Lovence, Kirsty Latoya, Katy Massey, E. L. Norry, Quincy the Comedian, Jermain Jackman. With cover art by Joelle Avelino.
This book presents 12 moving tales of sacrifice and bravery, inspired by first-hand accounts of the Windrush generation.
“Home ain’t jus’ where you live. Home is your heart an’ yer history.”
Each inspiring story helps to bring the real experience of Black British people into focus. Produced in partnership with Black Cultural Archives to honour the Windrush generation, it also includes ten photo-packed fact sections.
Coming To England by Floella Benjamin is available as both a picture book for younger readers and as a novel for independent readers. The 25th Annivesary edition of the novel now has additional historical information, and is beautifully illustrated throughout by Joelle Avelino.
Floella Benjamin was just a young girl when she, her sister and two brothers arrived in England in 1960 to join their parents, whom they had not seen for fifteen months. They had left the island paradise of Trinidad to make a new home in London – part of a whole generation of West Indians who were encouraged to move to Britain and help rebuild the country after the Second World War. Reunited with her mother, Floella was too overwhelmed at first to care about the cold weather and the noise and dirt from the traffic. But, as her new life began, she was shocked and distressed by the rejection she experienced. She soon realized that the only way to survive was to work twice as hard and be twice as good as anyone else. This inspirational story is a powerful reminder of how courage and determination can overcome adversity.
The Voices Series published by Scholastic, for Year 5 and 6, tell amazing diverse stories about everyday people in British History. Here are three that tie in perfectly with Black History Month.
Empire’s End: A Roman Story by Leila Rasheed. As well as being an amazing story, it sparked my curiosity and I went on to research one of the real-life characters in the book. I have studied and helped to teach Romans, and until I read this book, I had absolutely no idea that Britannia had been ruled by a Black African Roman Emperor!
When, Camilla, a young North African girl travels with her mother and father from Leptis Magna to Rome in 207 AD, she believes that she is going to the centre of the world. But just a few months later, the little family is dispatched to the very edge of it: Britannica. Tragedy strikes and, left alone with the Empress while her father travels north, Camilla has to navigate the tricky world of of secrets and danger in this cold place she must now call home. In this heart-stopping adventure based on real historical events, Leila Rasheed shows us a dangerous and intriguing time in Britain that’s sure to fascinate young readers.
Diver’s Daughter: A Tudor Story by Patrice Lawrence brings Eve and her mother, who was stolen from her family in Mozambique as a child, from the Southwark slums of Elizabethan London to England’s southern coast. When they hear from a Mary Rose survivor that one of the African free-divers who was sent to salvage its treasures is alive and well and living in Southampton, mother and daughter agree to try to find him and attempt to dive the wreck of another ship, rumoured to be rich with treasures. But will the pair survive when the man arrives to claim his ‘share’? Will Eve overcome her fear of the water to help rescue her mother?
Windrush Child by Benjamin Zephaniah is a heart-stopping adventure that shows us what it was like to be a child of the Windrush generation. Leonard is shocked when he arrives with his mother in the port of Southampton. His father is a stranger to him, it’s cold and even the Jamaican food doesn’t taste the same as it did back home in Maroon Town. But his parents have brought him here to try to make a better life, so Leonard does his best not to complain, to make new friends, to do well at school – even when people hurt him with their words and with their fists. How can a boy so far from home learn to enjoy his new life when so many things count against him?