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Book reviews and recommendations for Black History Month and beyond

Page-turning murder mystery draws in reluctant readers

Promise Boys by Nick Brooks

Reviewed by Tammy Le, President, BC Teacher-Librarians’ Association


Promise Boys is a recently published book that is a murder mystery novel for students who like a fast-paced read with multiple perspectives. It’s about three teenage boys at Promise Prep School who are suspected of murdering their principal because all three were at school in detention when it happened. Because of their situation, the three boys have to help each other to solve the murder because no one else is willing to help them. Aside from the three main characters who are Black and Salvadoran, we also have perspectives from teachers, community members, news reporters, etc. This novel sucks you in from the beginning and will get reluctant readers turning the page. The audiobook has a full cast and is even more engaging for those who struggle with reading. 


This is a great book to recommend for Black History Month because it deals with issues of racism and prejudice against BIPOC individuals, themes that can be discussed as a class or in literature circles. It allows the class to explore the ideas of bias and perspectives that would help with deeper learning.


Story of Canadian civil rights hero rich with learning opportunities

Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged! by Jody Nyasha Warner and illustrated by Richard Rudnicki

Reviewed by Doni Gratton (she/her), teacher-librarian, West Vancouver


The story of Viola Desmond wasn’t often told prior to this book being published; this account of determination and resilience is a favourite read-aloud of mine, especially for Black History Month. The book lends itself to many opportunities for discussion, as mentioned below.


Before Rosa Parks, before Ruby Bridges, Canada had its own hero in the battle against injustice and segregation: Viola Desmond. Viola’s story takes place just outside one of the oldest Black communities in Nova Scotia in 1946. On a business trip one day, Viola finds herself killing time while her car is fixed, so she ends up at a movie theatre. Through what Viola originally perceives as a misunderstanding about ticket price, we see that racial discrimination has occurred. We then see how Viola defies the segregation law in the Roseland Theatre by refusing to budge from her seat in the “whites only” section. The story continues with Viola spending a night in jail, resulting in her outrage that lends momentum to getting Canada’s segregation law changed. 


This book shows clear examples of how Black people were persecuted at that time in Canada; there are many places to stop the story for questions or connections the teacher or students may have. For example, students are often outraged to see Viola arrested and may want to discuss why this happened. 


The back page of the book contains further information and an explanation of why Viola Desmond is considered a hero and a change-maker in Canada. It is interesting to note that the same year this book was published the face of Viola Desmond was depicted on the new Canadian $10 bill.


Did you know? The BCTF has a free ebook collection where members can access these and other great titles. Find it at

More titles for Black History Month

Justice Makes a Difference: The Story of Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire

by Artika Tyner and Jacklyn Milton, and illustrated by Jeremy Norton

In this picture book, Justice learns about important change-makers and leaders from her grandmother. She dreams of making a difference in her community as a superhero named Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire.


Gumbo Joy by Robert P. Dixon Jr. and illustrated by Amakai Quaye

The story and illustrations in this book are a celebration of the cultural history of the African diaspora. The book highlights the significance of gumbo as a tradition, meal, celebration, and way of gathering.


Africville by Shauntay Grant and illustrated by Eva Campbell

Grant and Campbell share the vibrant history of Africville, a Black community in Nova Scotia that was populated for over 150 years until its demolition in the 1960s. The story highlights the annual Africville reunion/festival where residents and their families gather every summer to remember the community.


Nothing Interesting Ever Happens to Ethan Fairmont by Nick Brooks

This middle-grade science-fiction novel follows self-proclaimed genius inventor Ethan Fairmont who works with his ex-best friend and a new kid in school to help save an alien who is stranded on earth.


Too Many Interesting Things Are Happening to Ethan Fairmont by Nick Brooks

In the second title of the Ethan Fairmont stories, Ethan tries to communicate with his alien friend, Cheese, while mysterious and drastic changes occur around his neighbourhood. This book is ideal for readers ages 8–12.


Races: The Trials and Triumphs of Canada’s Fastest Family by Valerie Jerome

Valerie Jerome shares the story of the Olympians in her family, including Harry Jerome, who set seven world records; John “Army” Howard, Canada’s first Black Olympian; and herself, a competitor at the 1960 Rome Olympics. The book addresses the racism the family faced and the legacy of activism that lives on today.


Go Do Some Great Thing: The Black Pioneers of British Columbia by Crawford Kilian

This book brings to light stories of prominent Black pioneers and trailblazers including Sylvia Stark, one of the earliest settlers on Salt Spring Island; Joe Fortes, lifeguard and special constable; and Mifflin Gibbs, the first Black person to hold public office in BC.


Teaching Black History to White People by Leonard N. Moore

Moore combines his personal story and experience teaching Black history with insight into pedagogy and practice that can help educators guide students through honest conversations about race.


Pourin’ Down Rain: A Black Woman Claims Her Place in the Canadian West by Cheryl Foggo

Cheryl Foggo recounts her adolescence in Calgary in the 1960s and the process of becoming a proud Black woman. Her book is a celebration of Black experience and Black resiliency on the prairies.


Emancipation Day: Celebrating Freedom in Canada by Natasha Henry

This book shares history and traditions surrounding Emancipation Day in Canada, with a specific focus on the social, cultural, political, and educational practices that mark Emancipation Day in Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and BC. 


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