Black History Month – connecting with our supporters (5)

Today, as part of Black History Month, we’ve book recommendations from Miss Randall (photographed), a library supporter, primary school teacher in Sutton Coldfield and YouTube children’s storyteller on ‘Storytime with Miss Randall’.

Here’s what Miss Randall wanted to share with us all:

“Children’s books can act as mirrors, to reflect the readers’ own identity and lives, but also as windows so readers can learn about, understand and appreciate the lives of others. They can shape how young readers from varied backgrounds see themselves as well as how readers from a more dominant culture see and understand the complexity of diversity. I believe that’s it’s vital that all children have access to diverse books featuring black and brown characters at the forefront, stories that have positive role models, inspire and empower.

My first recommendation is Look up! By Nathan Byron, Winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the number 1 debut picture book of 2019.
As a big fan of stargazing myself, this book was an instant hit for me!

‘All I know is that one day I’m going to be the greatest astronaut, star catcher, space traveler who has ever lived like Mae Jemison, the first African- American woman in space’ ~Rocket

Rocket loves to look up at the stars. She wants to be an astronaut after all, just like her hero Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space. Packed with fun facts about meteors and space to satisfy those curious minds, this charming picture book is laden with gorgeous illustrations that will convince children to get excited about the natural world, just like Rocket. Challenging traditional gender norms, Look Up! will show space-mad readers that the sky really is the limit.

My second recommendation is Hair Love by Matthew Cherry, based on the Oscar-Winning Short Film
An empowering story that celebrates the beautiful diversity of black hair, and the magical relationship between daddies and daughters everywhere. Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own! It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it’s beautiful. When her Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn. But he loves his Zuri, and he’ll do
anything to make her -and her hair – happy!

My next recommendation is Grandpa, Is Everything Black Bad? by Sandy Holman Lynne
A thought provoking book to help children identify with their heritage, not just a colour. It can be used to dispel myths and stereotypes and launch an excellent discussion of race equality. “Grandpa, Is Everything Black Bad?” is a wonderfully illustrated story of an African American boy who questions the goodness of his black skin because he sees so many black things in his life that are bad; bad guys on TV wear black, black cats bring bad luck, people wear black to funerals, etc. He then learns of his proud heritage from his Grandfather whose wise words and magical drumming capture his imagination. In a mystical journey through ancient Africa, the boy learns to identify himself with his heritage and, ultimately, to appreciate his beautiful, dark skin.

Next is a pair of book, Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History and Little Leaders: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison
‘I made up my mind to try. I tried and I was successful.’- Bessie Coleman.

Both books are packed with the wonderful biographies of brave, bold black women and men who have broken boundaries and are have changed the world. They may not have always been accepted, but with their powerful voices, extraordinary actions and unswayable beliefs, each one has made the world a better place for generations to come. Packed with strong positive role models, that inspire children to dream big and make a difference. These are also a great little read for the adults too!

My final recommendation is Lightning Girl by Alesha Dixon
A laugh out loud, adventurous and exciting novel for undercover superheroes!
10-year-old Aurora Beam lives at home with her utterly unremarkable family… until the day she sees her little sister being picked on in the playground and suddenly beams of light shoot out of her fingers! It’s time for her parents to drop a life-changing bombshell. Mum is a secret superhero, fighting crime across the globe while Dad looks after the kids at home. As Aurora’s own powers come into play, will she be able to balance her new super skills training with school? Will she be able to keep it all a secret from her friends? And when her mum’s evil twin pops up, will Aurora think that being a super VILLAIN might be more fun…?”

THANK YOU Miss Randall! What an amazing selection of books. Do check out Miss Randalls’ YouTube story time channel.

You can also find Miss Randall on Instagram.

Look Up! is available as an eBook if you have a Birmingham lIbrary card. Bold Women in Black History and Grandpa, is everything black bad? are available from the mobile library (which stops in Banners Gate and Falcon Lodge). Hair Love is available from Mere Green Library.

Little Leaders: Exceptional Men in Black History is in the Birmingham library system but currently not available in any Sutton library.

Lightning Girl is available from Walmley and Sutton Coldfield libraries and also the Mobile library.

Black History Month – connecting with our supporters (4)

Our next set of book recommendations during Black History Month come once again from library user and author Fadzi, a first generation immigrant Zimbabwean. This time Fadzi is focussing on suggestions for adult readers:

“For adults, I recommend the writings of Tsitsi Dangarembga and Imbolo Mbue. Ms Mbue had her book, Behold the Dreamers, featured on Oprah’s Book Club. I instantly fell for Tsitsi’s writing years ago when I read “Nervous Conditions”, however I wasn’t so enamoured with the sequel, “The Book of Not.” She has just released the third book in the trilogy, entitled, “This Mournable Body” and I will definitely give it a chance.

Next, there’s “The Measure of a Man” by Sidney Poitier – because, as it says in the blurb, “Here is Poitier’s own introspective look at what has informed his performances and his life. Poitier explores the nature of sacrifice and commitment, pride and humility, rage and forgiveness, and paying the price for artistic integrity. What emerges is a picture of a man seeking truth, passion, and balance in the face of limits – his own and the world’s.” I think this book would help readers of all races to better understand the challenges that even someone like Poitier has had to overcome in honing his craft through the years. I definitely found this an interesting read.

Trevor Noah wrote a book called “Born a Crime” which I can’t recommend highly enough. It is however slightly tainted with bad language, so he has also written a cleaner, more child-friendly version of the same book for readers who prefer a more palatable version. He is a mixed-race man born to a white father and black mother in apartheid South Africa at a time when it was literally a crime for them to have got together. He is now the host of the Daily Show in America. This is an absolute must-read.”

According to the Birmingham Library catalogues:
Behold the Dreamers is available as an eBook and to borrow from the Library of Birmingham
This Mournable Body is available as an eBook, with Nervous Conditions and The Book of Not available for reference only in the Library of Birmingham
The Measure of a Man is available from Sutton Coldfield Library
Born a Crime is available from Sutton Coldfield Library and the Mobile library (which stops in Banners Gate and Falcon Lodge)

Thankyou once more, Fadzi! We’re delighted to be able to share your book recommendations. If other FOLIO supporters would like to make book recommendations for Black History Month, please get in touch on

Black History Month – connecting with our supporters (3)

Our next set of book recommendations as part of Black History Month come from Domanic, a Sutton resident and graduate of Bishop Vesey whose mother arrived in Birmingham as part of the Windrush generation, aged 6, from Antigua, and whose Dad was born in Birmingham to Jamaican parents.

Domanic’s first recommendation is Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by the rapper Akala. Domanic says, “This has been on my reading list for ages, I’m finally reading it now. It’s good to read this in the context of a British youth’s first hand experience. It add the social dimension to a lot of what you often hear Akala asked to speak about. I think a book like this is particularly right now.”

Then come three children’s books as top tips:

Of Bimwili and the Zimwi written by Verna Aardema and illustrated by Susan Meddaugh Domanic says “I still remember this from school. It’s a cool kind of fairytale. I didn’t notice it when I was younger, but it was the only story book at school that was about a black girl.”
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison is Domanic’s next tip: “This is a book that’s a bit of a spin off from a short cartoon. My partner was worrying from before our child was born, “What are we going to do with their hair!?” Here’s the video:″

The final choice from Domanic is Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison.

“I bought this a couple years ago for my brother’s children. It’s just nice to have something to look at with them and hear about black people in modern history beyond just US civil rights.”

There are lots of copies of Natives in the Birmingham Libraries catalogue, but no copies are available in any Sutton Coldfield Library. Bimwili and the Zimwi, and Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History are available from the mobile library (which stops in Banners Gate and Falcon Lodge). Hair Love is available from Mere Green Library.

Black History Month – connecting with our supporters (2)

We’ve some more book recommendations for you today as part of Black History Month. Today’s recommendations are books for children and come from library user Fadzi. Here’s what she has to to suggest:

“S P K Mushambi who writes delightful stories for children, her first two being “The Mysterious Melody” and “Tarirai’s Choice.” My 9 year old daughter is a keen book reviewer and if she says this is good then I take her word for it. She’s enjoyed the adventure in the Mysterious Melody. It’s just a great story, and in a children’s story, we don’t need a greater reason than that, though it’s worth noting it was recently been long listed for a new book award, Kidzania London is featuring an exhibit of these books at their library for the entire month of October.

My children are loving a book called “Coco loves her Curly Hair” by Colleen Dixon which celebrates the versatility of black hair. I know the month is about history but I take it as an opportunity to celebrate blackness as I think celebrating our existence and uniqueness helps people to appreciate our journey.

For something factual and informative, with great illustrations, covering both geography and history, “In Africa with Avi and Kumbi” by Khize wamaZambezi is a book I’d recommend.

My daughters have also enjoyed the Jaden Toussaint series by Marti Dumas, “Akeelah and the Bee” by James W Ellison and “Femi the Fox, A Pot of Jollof” by Jeanette Kwakye and my last recommendation is Tullula by Refiloe Moahloli – because it’s a sweet story about being able to change the way things have always been done, and it’s a story written by a South African and therefore through the eyes of an African. An appreciation of South Africa’s history deepens our understanding of the premise of this book. Beautifully illustrated and even has an accompanying song on CD.”

Fadzi knows what makes a children’s book great – she herself published her first book earlier this year. “Tafara and the Patchwork Blanket”, was written because Fadzi felt her daughters needed to see themselves represented in literature through the lens of a first generation immigrant Zimbabwean family living in the UK, who are able to pass on the cultures and practices that they’re accustomed to. Fadzi says of her writing “I will always seek to portray my people as who we are – fun-loving people with real lives, day-to-day happenings, not victims, not perpetually oppressed , but as day-to-day people living and learning and discovering.”

Unfortunately none of these books are available through Birmingham Libraries but you may be able to order them from, black-owned independent bookshop in Birmingham. They are also all available from Amazon.

Black History Month – connecting with our supporters (1)

As you may know it is Black History Month, and here at FOLIO we’ve been having really interesting conversations with some of our supporters who are Black or who have African and/or Caribbean heritage about great books they’d like to recommend.

First up are some recommendations from Myke. As well as those titles in the picture below, he’d like to suggest Things Fall Apart by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. This novel, depicting 1890’s pre-colonial Igbo life (there are about 45 million Igbo people currently living in Nigeria, and also in Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon), was recently adapted for Radio 4.

Myke says, “I recommend Things Fall Apart because it’s a book from my childhood aged 5 to 8, growing up in an African village. Life in Ghana, west Africa was a culture shock: being called Kofi; learning French at school; and meeting so many relatives. And of course, the title is from a WB Yeats poem: Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. So apt for these Covid-19 times.”

Things Fall Apart is available as an E-book if you have a Birmingham libraries card. There is also a copy in Boldmere library which you can reserve to collect from Boldmere.

The books pictured are additional books Myke would recommend:
Up from here by Iyanla Vanzant
Moving Voices – Black Performance Poetry, edited by Asher Hoyles
The Original African Heritage Study Bible

Copies of Moving Voices can be found in Kings Heath, Spring Hill and Tower Hill Libraries, though at the moment they cannot be ordered through to any library in Sutton.

Whilst we’re all in favour of libraries, you might be interested to know about a specialist bookshop in Birmingham, “We have books from across the African diaspora; Britain, America, the Caribbean, Africa, and beyond and we believe that everyone, regardless of cultural background, will find something to fall in love with.” You’ll find My Book Basket at Legacy Centre (formerly The Drum) 144 Potters Lane, Birmingham B6 4UU.

The Archaeology of Sutton Park – an online talk

FOLIO Sutton Coldfield is delighted to welcome Dr Mike Hodder for our first public online event, an illustrated talk about the archaeology of Sutton Park.

Dr Mike Hodder was born in Sutton Coldfield and he has been researching the archaeology of Sutton Park for over 40 years. He was formerly Birmingham City Council’s Planning Archaeologist, and he is an Honorary Lecturer at the University of Birmingham and President of the Friends of Sutton Park Association.

Sutton Park contains many well-preserved and nationally-important archaeological remains which show how people have used and managed this landscape for thousands of years, from prehistoric times to the 20th century. Research continues, and even more sites are being discovered.

Dr Hodder’s talk will be given via Zoom. To register for this FREE talk, which will be followed by an opportunity to ask questions, please email Upon registering your interest for the talk you will be sent the Zoom link for the event.

To make it as easy as possible to attend and enjoy the event we recommend you install Zoom either on your computer or handheld device ahead of the event.

This event is free to attend but please consider making a donation to FOLIO, which is entirely volunteer-run, to enable us to run more events for you in the future.


Although Sutton Coldfield Library is not currently able to host public events and activities, all Sutton Libraries are partially open:

Sutton Coldfield Library
Book drop off: Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri, Sat, 10-4
Otherwise order and collect (call to order books, then when the books are ready the library will call you and book you a collection slot during opening hours:
•Monday:10am to midday, 2pm to 4pm
•Tuesday:1 0am to midday, 2pm to 4pm
•Wednesday: Closed
•Thursday: 10am to midday, 2pm to 4pm
•Friday: 10am to midday, 2pm to 4pm
•Saturday: 10am to midday, 2pm to 4pm
•Sunday: Closed

Mere Green Library

•Monday: 10-12 and 2-4 browsing and computers
•Tuesday: order and collect by appointment only
•Wednesday: 10-12 and 2-4 browsing and computers
•Thursday: order and collect by appointment only
•Friday: Closed
•Saturday: 10-12 and 2-4 browsing and computers
•Sunday: Closed

Boldmere Library
•Order and Collect Tuesday and Thursday 10-12 and 2-4 by appointment only

Walmley library

•Order and Collect Wednesday 10-12 and 2-4 by appointment only

Additionally, the library service continues to offer a wide range of e-services (ebooks, emagazines, enewspapers and more).

Review: The Lost Pianos of Siberia

An epic, romantic and mesmerising quest for (almost) mythical treasure, spanning more than 250 years, replete with curious characters, terrible evil and despair, incredible generosity and stunningly beautiful landscapes, this page-turner is not an all-consuming novel but a breathtaking, astonishing account by Sophy Roberts of her recent travels through Siberia.

A search for old pianos is the thread that joins stories of exile, empire and living on the edge, where music and the determination to nurture it in some of the most remote, and almost unimaginable places in the world speaks of a sense of hope, courage and defiant grace that stirs up optimism and faith in the human spirit.

This compelling book made me curious and excited about far off places and people I am unlikely to ever see or meet. As I reluctantly finished The Lost Pianos of Siberia I wanted time to slow down, grateful for the book’s bewitching, with the magic being all the more powerful for being true.

[Reviewed for FOLIO by Zoe]

Review: How to Disappear

A page turner that allows you to imagine a parallel life, who you might be and whether you could really cope in a new life without any links to the old, Gillian McAllister’s How to Disappear is escapism on every level. A book to submerge yourself into and leave the real world behind, a book about leaving the world you know behind, this is the tale of a family, the consequences of a horrible crime and the limits of witness protection. It’s about loyalty, identity, and how far you would to support and defend your children.

McAllister acknowledges how difficult it is to research witness protection and therefore to be confident of the authenticity of the experience she fictionalises but the world she has built is – for a reader who remembers the cases of the James Bulger, or more recently Ched Evans – compelling.

[Reviewed for FOLIO by Zoe]

Book Review: Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit For Less

This can be one of the most important non fiction novel for the modern time. Since the evolution of internet, we have seen an overload of information and opportunities. Today saying being busy makes you sound cool. But are we really being productive by being busy?

This book will help you detox your life from all the non essentials. The book flows down beautifully with description of Essentialism and why we need it, then it takes you on a journey to teach you how to find the non essentials in your life by helping you differentiate between what is important and what is not and then shows you how to eliminate those non essentials from your life.

The knowledge from this book is applicable from sorting your wardrobe to sorting your life and career. The author does a brilliant job of capturing the importance of essentialism to show us what’s behind the closed door of simple life. He does his best to help you to prioritise your life and get you detached from non essential work which you don’t feel like doing but you do just to make other people happy.

After reading this book Being Essentialist will be the new Mantra of your life rather than Being Busy.

Reviewed for FOLIO by Daksh


Review: The Midnight Library

Have you ever imagined how your life might have turned out if you had taken a different decision at some point? If you had taken a job you turned down? Said no to something you didn’t really want to do but still did? Or simply allowed yourself to follow your dreams?

Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library is about exactly this scenario; Nora Seed decides to end her life but instead ends up in the Midnight Library where, thanks to a fairy-godmother-like librarian, she is given the option to try out all the other lives she could have had. In doing so she reflect on what her regrets are and whether life really is so miserable killing herself is still what Nora thinks is best.

Although the opening may unsettle some readers this novel could work really well as a book group read or an inspiration for a creative writing group. Sensitively handled it could also work in helping to discuss mental health issues and taboos around suicide. An easy and quick read, The Midnight Library isn’t as funny or insightful as some of Haig’s earlier books but it is one that could spark interesting conversations and personal reflections.

[Reviewed for FOLIO by Zoe]