Literature: Children's Literature


Aspects of African Canadian Literature
Literature | History | Writers | Children's Literature | Press | Publications | Anthologies


Big Boy by Tololwa M. Mollel, Stoddart Publishing (1995)

Tololwa M. Mollel's Big Boy is the story of a little boy's dream. The reader becomes aware of Oli's dream when Oli wakes in his mother's arms. Mollel's Big Boy takes the reader through a wonderful journey with this young boy who becomes too big. Mollel takes the reader into Oli's dream without the reader knowing they were there until Oli awakens. This story reminds one of the story of Alice in Wonderland.

Ananse's Feast by Tololwa M. Mollel, Houghton Mifflin Publishing, (1997)

Ananse's Feast is another brilliant book for children. Ananse is the spider who appears in a series of West African stories. In this story Ananse is a gluttonous schemer who enjoys making a fool of his friend Akye, the turtle. Ananse is the perfect trickster. He is wise but stupid. The storyteller has done a beautiful job in setting up Ananse for the fall; one cannot help but laugh at Ananse's demise. The story teaches kids about sharing and friendship.

La Diablesse and the Baby by Richardo Keens-Douglas, Annick Press (1994)

La Diablesse and the Baby is a story of a lonely female living in the far-off mountains. She tries to create companionship by stealing babies and peoples' souls. This tale is a stern reminder to youngsters of the danger that strangers pose even in spite of how they may appear. In this tale Keens-Douglas surprises his readers by revealing that the baby to be snatched by La Diablesse is none other than himself, the storyteller.

Leading the Way by Rosemary Sadlier - Umbrella Press (1994)

Rosemary Sadlier's Leading the Way, is a history book in memory of Black women, their strength and contributions to the rich 'Black heritage' in Canada. This history book contains short biographies of over thirty-five Black women including major biographies of Harriet Tubman, Mary Ann Shadd, Carrie Best, Rosemary Brown and Sylvia Sweeney.

Big Doc Bitteroot by C. Everard Palmer, Andre Deutsch Ltd. (1974)

Big Doc Bitteroot is a novel for young adults (grades 6+). The novel portrays the turbulence between two men: the stranger, Big Doc and a Village man. It is set in a Jamaican village called Kendal, and introduces resistance and acceptance to change. This novel is a good text for teenagers because it helps them to recognize that nothing is permanent and that the lifestyle that they are accustomed to could change overnight It warns that they must prepare themselves for changes and the possible consequences of change.

Earth Magic by Dionne Brand, Sister Vision Press (1979)

Dionne Brand's Earth Magic is a wonderful collection of poems put together for the young adult. Its simple rhythms and chants make it quite easy to read and enjoyable for the youngest of readers. The collection is positive and empowering in tone, with passages like, "the Salt, pepper, vinegar......if I can I can do better.............if I can I can be a Lawyers......." The use of illustrations in this collection makes itattractive to the younger child, but can also appeal to adult readers taking them back to the days of innocence and youth. The illustrations bring one back to specific places, ages and times.

Rhinos for Lunch and Elephants for Supper! by Tololwa M. Mollel, Stoddart Publishing (1991)

This is a delightful story about a hare who enlists the help of other animals to try to get the monster (whose booming voice says "I eat rhinos for lunch and elephants for supper. Come in if you dare!) out of her home. All of the animals were frightened away but their loud stampeding awakes a little frog, who eventually solves the problem. Beautiful illustrations support the interesting story line.

The Nutmeg Princess by Richardo Keens-Douglas, Annick Press (1992)

Although Petite Mama was tiny, she was a hard worker and very strong. She lived on the Isle of Spice in the Caribbean way up in the mountains. Further up the mountains, just past her nutmeg trees, there was a bottomless lake in the middle of a volcano. Petite Mama said that a young black woman lived on this lake. Petite Mama called her "The Nutmeg Princess" because she would only appear when the nutmeg was ready for picking. Petite Mama was the only one who had ever seen the Nutmeg Princess. Two children from the town eventually meet the Nutmeg Princess, and the young girl is rewarded for her kindness and unselfish attitude with the gift of a diamond from the Nutmeg Princess. The story is written in expressive, descriptive language. It is a magical story that should be included in school libraries and classrooms.

Freedom Child of the SeaFreedom Child of the Sea by Richardo Keens-Douglas, Annick Press (1995)

A young man, swimming off the shore of a Caribbean island, is helped to safety by a mysterious boy who appears from the depths of the sea. That boy, a stranger tells the young man, is the Freedom Child. Long ago, on a ship carrying slaves, there was a woman who was expecting her first child. As the weeks passed she grew weaker. Despite cries of others that they would help her, the sailors threw her over the side of the ship. As her body slowly sank, she gave birth to a baby boy and together they floated to the bottom of the ocean. That boy, Freedom Child, will carry scars on his body as long as there is oppression and cruelty in the world. On the day his body is as beautiful as his face, from head to toe, one would know there is true freedom, compassion and harmony among all people. This is a beautifully written story that would be an asset to school libraries and classrooms.

Grandpa's Visit by Richardo Keens-Douglas, Annick Press (1996)

One day Jeremy's grandfather comes to visit. Grandpa is a man who loves life. The family is so involved in their busy lives that they have forgotten to enjoy the simple things in life. One night the electricity goes out and Grandpa's gift to Jeremy - a simple ball - was just what the family needed to share laughter and to enjoy each other's company.

Steel Drums and Ice Skates by Dirk McLean, Douglas And McIntyre Ltd. (1996)

This is the story of Holly who is going to Canada to join her parents, who left Trinidad for Toronto two years earlier. At first Holly is excited with the city and then because her mom and dad work all the time, she begins to feel alone. The growing relationship that she develops with her baby-sitter, Sita, brings Holly much happiness. It is the story of a young girl who must assimilate into a new society. This book would be an asset in school libraries and classrooms especially in classrooms where children new to Canada are enrolled.

Granny and MeGranny and Me by Gale Henry, The Women's Press (1994)

This is the story of a young girl's relationship with her grandmother. The story describes all of the things that the two main characters enjoyed together: everything from eating ripe, juicy mangoes to swimming in the warm, clear water. Her grandmother becomes ill and dies. Through her memory, the child sees her Granny and remembers all of the fun things they did. This is a valuable story when dealing with relationships within the family and loss.

Mary Ann Shadd by Rosemary Sadlier, Umbrella Press (1995)

In her introduction Sadlier writes that Mary Ann Shadd came to Canada because she thought that through her teaching ability she would be able to help the Black refugees who were escaping north to Canada, following the passing of the American Fugitive Slave Law of l850. On her arrival in Canada, the outspoken Shadd quickly began writing and teaching and became the first Black woman publisher in North America. The book is written in five chapters and includes a selection of biographies at the end of chapter five. This would be an asset to school libraries as it is an excellent historical reference for students.

The Black Canadians: Their History and Their Contributions by Velma Carter and Levero Carter Reidmore, Books Inc.(1989)

The Black Canadians contains eight chapters spanning history from the mid l700's to the present. Photographs, maps, case studies and an abundance of interesting and factual information make this a book that should be in school libraries as an excellent reference for students.

Harriet's DaughterHarriet's Daughter by Marlene Nourbese Philip, The Women's Press (1988)

In this charming, humourous and perceptive tale of adolescence, Marlene Nourbese Philip explores the friendship of two young black girls and throws into sharp relief the wider issues of culture and identity so relevant to teenagers of all races and colours.

How the Starfish got to the Sea by Althea Trotman, Sister Vision (1992)

This story book is set in a traditional colonial village and features characters such as Papa Biggis, a wise old man, Tulah and Keturah, two young girls, Mother Sillah, an old healer woman, and Brother Star. The story is set in Antigua's Otto Estate, a sugar plantation operating during the time of Caribbean slavery in the 1800's. The story is about a star that left the heavens and came down to earth and lost its ability to shine. This story has some 'moral lessons' attached to it, and is excellent for grade 4 and up.

How the East Pond got its Flowers by Althea Trotman, Sister Vision (1991)

This is the story of the relationship that develops between Tulah, a young girl who lives in a village in Antigua, and Mother Sillah , the "big healer for the whole compound". According to Mother Sillah, she is predestined to do great things. With the support from her family and Mother Sillah, all that is foretold comes true. This is a valuable story that could be included in a study of family and friends.

Save the World for Me by Maxine Tynes, Pottersfield Press (1991)

Maxine Tynes's book is a wonderful book of poems. The poems touch on a wide variety of topics: politics, public policies, countries, teachers, foods, friends, people, holidays. She has categorized the poems into four sections: Your World, Big World, School World, and Maxine's World. There are tones of joy, sadness and laughter throughout the collection, and he book is beautifully illustrated to capture and keep the attention of children ages four and up. The author dedicates this book ' to all the growing-up people of the world'.

Trouble Make Monkey Eat Pepper by Rita Cox, Kids Can Press (1977)

This is a Caribbean folktale that is easily translated to kids of all backgrounds. It is about innocence, the kind that children and animals have in common. The tale uses humour to explain the trouble that comes with certain kinds of curiosity.


About the Authors

Gale Henry grew up living with her grandmother in Trinidad. She was greatly influenced by her grandmother and spent long hours listening to her tell stories. As a result, Gale developed her own love for storytelling. An elementary school teacher, Gale has worked to show her students a variety of stories and to share with them the joy of telling and listening to stories

Tololwa M. Mollel and Arusha Maasai, grew up in Tanzania. He is a storyteller who makes use of African folklore. He lives with his family in Edmonton, Alberta.

Richardo Keens-Douglas was born and raised in Grenada. He came to Canada and has lived in Montreal and Toronto. As a playwright, actor and storyteller he has done much to promote Canadian West Indian Culture. He recently founded a drama school in Grenada where he teaches every summer. His book, The Miss Meow Pageant was released in September of 1998.

Dirk McLean was born in Trinidad in 1956. At age thirteen he moved to Canada to join his mother and he attended Riverdale Collegiate. He simultaneously enrolled at York University's Glendon College, Creative Writing Program and The Toronto Royal Conservatory of Music. He was awarded the Gold Medal for highest marks in the Dominion of Canada in 1978. By 1978, Dirk had decided to focus on playwrighting.

Rosemary Sadlier is a sixth-generation Canadian with a strong commitment to promoting the history and contributions of Blacks in Canada. She graduated from York University and the University of Toronto, where she received her Master of Social Work and also her Bachelor of Education degree. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three children.

Velma Carter was born in Edmonton, Alberta. She attended the University of Alberta. She also attended the University of California where she received a Ph.D. in Education. She has taught in the Faculties of Education at the University of San Francisco and at the University of California. She now resides in Edmonton. Dr. Carter has been writing since 1971.

Levero (Lee) Carter is a cultural educator who has a mandate for the documentation of unique cultural groups history. His commitment to The Black Canadians in co-ordination and research has spanned six years of development. The Black Canadians is a first in the cultural education for young Canadians.

Cheryl Foggo has written script for film and television and her fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been published in many magazines. Foggo lives with her husband and two daughters in Calgary, Alberta.

Althea Trotman (née Prince) was born in Antigua, and has lived in Toronto since l965. Her poetry, short stories and articles have appeared in numerous magazines and journals. She studied Sociology at York University (Toronto) and at John Hopkins University in Baltimore. Her books for children include How the East Pond Got Its Flowers and How the Star Fish Got to the Sea.

Everard C. Palmer was born in Kendal Jamaica and raised on a farm. He attended Mico Training College in Canada. Everard has also taught in Canada.

Dionne Brand is a renowned poet who was born in Trinidad and has lived in Canada since 1970. She was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award in 1990 for her book No Language Is Neutral. She was writer- in- residence at the University of Toronto in 1991, and has taught creative writing at York University and the University of Guelph.

Rita Cox was born in Trinidad and now lives in Canada. She is currently Librarian Emeritus and Founder of the Black Heritage and West Indian Collection.

Maxine Tynes was born in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. In 1988 she won the Milton Acorn People's Poet of Canada Award. She is an English teacher at the Cole Habour High School in Nova Scotia.

Some other children's story books by African Canadian authors, that weren't available for review at the time of publishing this site

Adwoa Badoe
Crabs for Dinner

Afua Cooper
Red Caterpillar on College Street
Breaking Chain
Memories Have Tongue

Richardo Keens-Douglas
The Nutmeg Princess
Freedom Child From The Sea
La Diablesse and the Baby
Grandpa's Visit

Tololwa M. Mollel
Orphan Boy
Rhinos for Lunch, Elephants for Supper
The King and the Tortise
The Flying Tortise
Ananse's Feast
Big Boy

Itah Sadu
Christopher Clean Up Your Room
Christopher Changes His Name


Parkdale library, Toronto (Black Heritage Collection) Mississauga Central library, Annick Press, Willowdale Burke's bookstore,Toronto Professor Leslie Sanders at York University, Women's Press, Gale Henry Winsom the Illustrator, Keith Pointing, Colin Williams, Norbese Philip, Richard Keens-Douglas, Julia Gukova
Research and Development by Carol Mulholland and Cyndiann Walcott through the Atkinson College Humanities 3660.3 (African Canadian Voices)

Written and Designed by Carol Mulholland and Cyndiann Walcott

Special Thanks to Sam & Rita Burke