MAR Recommends: 5 Books Written by Canadian, BIWOC authors.
During the month of March, we celebrate Women’s History Month, with March 8th marking International Women’s Day. Following Black History Month and the theme of February’s booklist, this month’s booklist takes a step back from a more traditional way of honouring achievements and contributions of women. Instead of listing books which depict important historical women and celebrate their successes, I have chosen to highlight books which show everyday positive depictions of girls and women. As well, March 20th is International Day of Happiness. With this in mind, the titles chosen for this month’s book list have been selected with the intention of uplifting and bringing joy to young girls. In addition, these books are all written by Canadian BIWOC authors and illustrated by BIWOC.
All five of the titles selected this month are board and picture books most appropriate for babies, preschoolers, and younger elementary aged children. I chose to centre this month’s booklist around our youngest readers, as messaging around positive representation of women and girls needs to start from a young age. This month’s books not only provide “windows and mirrors” for female representation, but also show diversity in the races and cultures represented as well as body diversity in the illustrations.
My Heart Fills With Happiness was written “to support the wellness of Indigenous children and families” (Orca Books) and encourages all readers to consider what brings them joy and happiness, which opens the door for lovely reflection and discussion between adults and children reading together. It is also important to note that in addition to being available in English, this book is also available in two different dual-language versions with English/Anishinaabemowin and English/Plains Cree. If you enjoy this book, I would also encourage you to look for other titles by Monique Gray Smith with similar themes, particularly When We Are Kind and You Hold Me Up.
I Sang You Down From the Stars is another Indigenous title, paying tribute to the unique and special bond between mothers and their children. In this #OwnVoices book, the author draws from her own experience and cultural heritage showing Indigenous traditions preparing for a baby’s arrival. This title also offers opportunities for connection and rich discussion, as families can read together and consider their own family and cultural preparations for welcoming a new baby.
Finally, Kyo Maclear’s The Big Bath House depicts the experience of a Japanese familial tradition enjoyed by women and girls while also encouraging body positivity.
We hope you enjoy this month’s book list. Happy reading!
My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith
“A quiet loveliness, sense of gratitude, and—yes—happiness emanate from this tender celebration of simple pleasures, which features a cast of First Nations children and adults [...] Short, first-person phrases (‘My heart fills with happiness when... I see the face of someone I love’) revel in both solitary and familial activities, building to a direct address to readers: ‘What fills your heart with happiness?’”
- Publisher’s Weekly
I Sang You Down From the Stars by Tasha Spillett-Sumner
“When a baby chooses its mother, special gatherings of family and community are held to prepare for the child’s arrival. Sacred items are collected and placed in a medicine bundle to be given to the baby at birth. These items will keep the growing child’s connection to their identity strong. Spillett-Sumner’s lyrical text begins as an Indigenous mother plans the journey with her unborn child. ‘Before I held you in my arms, I sang you down from the stars.’” - Kirkus Reviews
Dear Black Girls by Shanice Nicole
“Dear Black Girls is a letter to all Black girls. Every single day poet and educator Shanice Nicole is reminded of how special Black girls are and of how lucky she is to be one. Illustrations by Kezna Dalz support the book's message that no two Black girls are the same but they are all special, and that to be a Black girl is a true gift.
In this celebratory poem, Kezna and Shanice remind young readers that despite differences, they all deserve to be loved just the way they are.” - CBC Books
The Big Bath House by Kyo Maclear
“Against a tile backdrop, dazzling candid portraits capture groups of nude girls and women of various ages, shapes, and skin tones sharing the big communal pool: ‘You’ll all dip your bodies,/ your newly sprouting,/ gangly bodies,/ your saggy, shapely,/ jiggly bodies,// your cozy, creased,/ ancient bodies./ Beautiful bodies.’ Maclear and Zhang portray with great warmth the nourishment offered by this cultural institution, making clear to readers the ritual’s cozy, home-away-from-home feeling. In this treasured familial memory grounded in a specific place, tender nakedness resolves into an undressing of both emotional and physical selves: ‘You’ll reach for Baachan’s hand, and she’ll reach for yours./ And it’ll be understood.’ An author’s note discusses the book’s origins.” - Publishers Weekly
A Note to the Adults:
It is recommended that parents read alongside their children in order to further discussions, particularly if these topics are new for your children. Additionally, the Middle Grades and Young Adult titles may contain more sensitive subject matter which may require further discussion with an adult. Older children and teens may be reluctant to read with a caregiver, but in this case adults can independently read the same title in order to be equipped to answer questions and spark discussions. Above all, let your child lead and guide the discussion, and listen attentively to their thoughts and ideas. Simply asking them questions such as “what do you think?”, “why do you think this happened?”, or “why do you think the character did this?” can be a good starting point.
Read any of these books with your kids? Send us their reviews and we will publish them on our Facebook page and Intsagram accounts. Show us your little Anti-Racist Readers!
If you have read a great book that you think should be on our next list, please email us at Info@MomsAgainstRacism.ca. We LOVE finding great new books!