To celebrate Black History Month, I want to share six fabulous books for children published in 2022 that celebrate Black culture in one way or another, from our hair to history and the power of names.
Musical Truths by Jeffrey Boakye, illustrated by Ngadi Smart
I couldn’t write a post for BHM without singing the praises of Musical Truths. No matter your age, this extraordinary book is a must-read, providing a musical history of Modern Black Britain in 28 songs, which you can sing along to via this soundtrack.
Musical Truths is an insightful book to be read alongside some of the most iconic Black music of all-time. From Lord Kitchener and Winifred Atwell to Ms Dynamite and Stormzy, Jeffery has shown the strength and cultural significance of Black music. He urges us to think about the people behind the music, what they’re really saying and why.
Musical Truths is a book that I didn’t realise I needed until I read it. It is unique, original and ground-breaking. You can read my full review here and also watch a video by Jeffrey on the book here.
Musical Truths is published by Faber & Faber and the paperback came out on 7 April 2022
I Am Nefertiti by Annemarie Anang and Natelle Quek
ROLL UP! This is a picture book must-read. Nefertiti loves playing the drums. She tells her music band “I am Nefertiti” and she feels ten feet tall. But when the new music teacher shortens her name to “Nef”, bit by bit, she starts to shrink. Without Nefertiti to keep the beat, the band is soon in disarray…
Drawing on her inner strength and with the support of the other children, they help their teacher recognise the importance of honouring Nefertiti’s name. Now, with everyone feeling valued, respected and included, can the band play as one?
I had no idea what this book was about when I first read it. When I reached the part where the teacher referred to Nefertiti as “Nef” my entire body tensed. Little did I know what was coming next. Annemarie and Natelle portray how small the teacher made Nefertiti feel in a way that is understandable and relatable for children – and adults(!). By the end of reading this picture book I was beaming with joy. I Am Nefertiti is a heartwarming, empowering picture book about belonging and showcasing the importance of respecting one another’s identity. This is a picture book that should be in every school and library.
Published by Five Quills, 2 June 2022
Africana by Kim Chakanetsa and Mayowa Alabi
Switching to non-fiction, I recently received a copy of a spectacular new encyclopedia that took my breath away. Divided into broad geographical sections, Africana explores the incredible history and diversity of the African continent, showcasing the different communities, landscapes and wildlife.
This decadent copper foil-covered encyclopedia has that coffee-table feel – a book you just want to dip in and out of, and discover something new every time. Within the pages, children will learn about historical civilisations such as the ancient Egyptians, the Benin Empire and the Kingdom of Kush, up to the development of the dynamic cities of the modern day. It includes famous figures from African history as well as modern-day change makers.
My favourite page was “Words of Wisdom” which included proverbs from different African countries that have been passed down for generations. I think this one sums it up:
“United we are rock, divided we are sand” ~ Madagascar
Published by Quarto, 4 October 2022
Black Girls Unbossed by Khristi Lauren Adams and Aruna Rangarajan
The message of this book is clear: Black girls are shaping the future. This empowering collection of biographies showcases young Black girls who are leading the way and changing the world.
Eight young Black women are profiled, including the founder of a child literacy non-profit, political activists, and a school shooting survivor who launched a political action committee to prevent gun violence. Each profile includes a quote which is a lovely touch.
For many readers, this might be the first time they have heard of these girls. It is so important we celebrate not only the amazing things Black people have done throughout history, but also the incredible things Black people are doing right now. Black Girls Unbossed is an inspiring and hard-hitting book for age 8+.
Published by Beaming Books, 12 July 2022
Hair by Katja Spitzer
Celebrating moptops to mohicans, afros to cornrows, this is a book I wish I’d had as a child. When I was young I sometimes struggled with my curls and a book like this, celebrating different cultural hairstyles throughout the ages would have been wonderful.
From punk re-dos to honouring the Gods and celebrating being a red-head, this book is inclusive of hair styles around the world. Katja’s bright and bold illustrations go side-by-side with a page on each hair trend or style and its cultural significance. Children will learn why hair braiders in West Africa can spend an entire day working on one person; and how Black Americans signalled their opposition to racist laws and practices by not styling their naturally frizzy hair.
This fun, bright and inclusive book encourages children to feel confident expressing themselves: to let down their hair, and to let others do the same!
Published by Prestel, 6 September 2022
Marcus Rashford by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Guilherme Karsten
We love the Little People, BIG DREAMS series and I was over the moon to see Marcus Rashford included this year.
When Marcus was a young, his mum sometimes had to go without food herself to make sure that her children had enough to eat. With his mum’s support, Marcus became a Premier League footballer. But no matter how successful he became, he never forgot where he came from and his experience as a hungry child. During the pandemic, schools closed and children needing free-school meals were going hungry so Marcus led a nation-wide campaign to ensure that no child would go without food.
What I love about this book is that it didn’t just focus on the highs of Marcus’ life, but also the lows. After Marcus missed a penalty at the World Cup he was subjected to hateful, racist abuse and this book deals with that in an accessible way to young children. This empowering biography offers inspiring messages to children of all ages.
Published by Quarto, 13 September 2022
I am very grateful to the publishers for providing me with complimentary copies of these books. This voluntary feature contains my honest opinion.