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Buffalo Soldier, Young, Gifted and Black and Cane Warriors on Bishop's Stortford College librarian Lizzie Hall's recommended reading list for Black History Month



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Bishop's Stortford College Prep School librarian Lizzie Hall writes about the magic of storytelling...

Dear Reader. October is Black History Month and a time to celebrate black people throughout history.

From picture books through to teen reads, here are some books that will inform and inspire.

Younger readers

Coming to England by Floella Benjamin

The inspiring true story of Baroness Floella Benjamin: from Trinidad, to London as part of the Windrush generation, to the House of Lords.

When she was 11 years old, Floella, along with her older sister and two younger brothers, set sail from Trinidad to London, to be reunited with the rest of their family.

Alone on a huge ship for two weeks, then tumbled into a cold and unfriendly London, coming to England wasn't at all what Floella had expected.

Coming to England is both deeply personal and universally relevant - Floella's experiences of moving home and making friends will resonate with young children, who will be inspired by her trademark optimism and joy.

This is a true story with a powerful message: that courage and determination can always overcome adversity.

Coming to England by Floella Benjamin (51992411)
Coming to England by Floella Benjamin (51992411)

Josephine Baker by Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Agathe Sorlet

Discover the incredible life of Josephine Baker, the world-famous entertainer, activist and French Resistance agent in this true story of her life.

Little Josephine grew up in St Louis, Missouri during segregation. But Josephine loved to dance and perform and dreamed of being on stage.

Josephine Baker by Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Agathe Sorlet (51992417)
Josephine Baker by Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Agathe Sorlet (51992417)

When she grew up, Josephine defied expectations and left for Paris, where audiences fell in love with her.

She fought against segregation her whole life and kept going with style, whatever was thrown in her way.

Young, Gifted and Black by Jamia Wilson

Meet 52 icons of colour from the past and present in this celebration of inspirational achievement – a collection of stories about changemakers to encourage, inspire and empower the next generation of changemakers.

Jamia Wilson has carefully curated this range of black icons and the book is stylishly brought together by Andrea Pippins' colourful and celebratory illustrations.

Written in the spirit of Nina Simone's song To Be Young, Gifted and Black, this vibrant book is a perfect introduction to both historic and present-day icons and heroes. Meet figureheads, leaders and pioneers such as Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks, as well as cultural trailblazers and athletes like Stevie Wonder, Oprah Winfrey and Serena Williams.

All children deserve to see themselves represented positively in the books they read. Highlighting the talent and contributions of black leaders and changemakers from around the world, readers of all backgrounds will be empowered to discover what they too can achieve.

Strong, courageous, talented and diverse, these extraordinary men and women's achievements will inspire a new generation to chase their dream, whatever it may be.

Young, Gifted and Black by Jamia Wilson (51992419)
Young, Gifted and Black by Jamia Wilson (51992419)

Older readers

Race to the Frozen North - The Matthew Henson Story by Catherine Johnson

Matthew Henson was simply an ordinary man. That was until Commander Robert E. Peary entered his life and offered him a chance at true adventure.

Henson would become navigator, craftsman, translator and right-hand man on a treacherous journey to the North Pole, defying the odds and the many prejudices that faced him to become a true pioneer.

This is his incredible and often untold story.

Race to the Frozen North - The Matthew Henson Story by Catherine Johnson (51992378)
Race to the Frozen North - The Matthew Henson Story by Catherine Johnson (51992378)

Son of the Circus: A Victorian Story by E L Norry

This book explores the life of a young mixed-race boy, Ted, living with his mother and poorly older brother in Victorian Bradfield.

When a stranger, a man the boys don't remember ever seeing before, appears in their kitchen, Ted is hit with a shocking revelation. This man is his father – the first black circus owner in Victorian Britain, Pablo Fanque.

Before Ted can recover from his shock, he is sent away with Pablo to learn the tricks of the circus trade. Pablo is determined for Ted to follow in his footsteps.

But can Ted adapt to this terrifying new life amongst strangers? And will he ever see his beloved mother and brother again?

Son of the Circus: A Victorian Story by E L Norry (51992389)
Son of the Circus: A Victorian Story by E L Norry (51992389)

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes

A powerful coming-of-age story about two brothers, one who presents as white, the other as Black, and the ways they are forced to navigate a world that doesn't treat them equally.

Donte wishes he were invisible. As one of the few black boys at his school, he feels as if he is constantly swimming in whiteness.

Most of the students don't look like him. They don't like him either. Dubbed the 'Black Brother', Donte's teachers and classmates make it clear they wish he were more like his lighter-skinned brother Trey.

When an incident with a white student leads to Donte's arrest and suspension, he's sure the only way to get even is to beat the student at the school's most valued game: fencing.

With the help of a former Olympic fencer, Donte embarks on a journey to carve out a spot on the school's fencing team and to find a way to make people at school see past the colour of his skin to who he really is.

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes (51992415)
Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes (51992415)

Teens and YA

Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle

"Nobody free till everybody free."

Moa is 14. The only life he has ever known is toiling on the Frontier sugar cane plantation for endless hot days, fearing the vicious whips of the overseers.

Then one night he learns of an uprising, led by the charismatic Tacky. Moa is to be a cane warrior and fight for the freedom of all the enslaved people in the nearby plantations.

But before they can escape, Moa and his friend Keverton must face their first great task: to kill their overseer, Misser Donaldson. Time is ticking and the day of the uprising approaches . . .

Irresistible, gripping and unforgettable, Cane Warriors follows the true story of Tacky's War in Jamaica, 1760.

Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle (51992376)
Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle (51992376)

Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman

"What kind of a girl steals the clothes from a dead man's back and runs off to join the army? A desperate one. That's who."

At the end of the American Civil War, Charley, a young African-American slave from the deep south, is ostensibly freed.

But then her adopted mother is raped and lynched at the hands of a mob and Charley is left alone.

In a terrifyingly lawless land, where the colour of a person's skin can bring violent death, Charley disguises herself as a man and joins the army. Soon she's being sent to the prairies to fight a whole new war against the "savage Indians".

Trapped in a world of injustice and inequality, it's only when Charley is posted to Apache territory that she begins to learn what it is to be truly free.

Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman (51992380)
Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman (51992380)

Black and British by David Olusoga

A short, essential introduction to black British history by award-winning historian and broadcaster David Olusoga.

When did Africans first come to Britain? Who are the well-dressed black children in Georgian paintings? Why did the American Civil War disrupt the Industrial Revolution?

These and many other questions are answered in this essential introduction to 1,800 years of black British history, from the Roman Africans who guarded Hadrian's Wall right up to the present day.

Black and British by David Olusoga (51992398)
Black and British by David Olusoga (51992398)


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