Tag Archives: Caryl Hart

Albie is back! And it’s AWESOME!

7 Oct

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The Albie books by Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves hold a special place in my heart. My daughter has grown up with them as firm favourites and even now, as she embraces full length chapter books and reading to herself, she regularly returns to Albie’s adventures. Her face lit up when this one dropped through the letterbox. A sure sign of a winning format!

I love the Albie books because of their celebration of childhood and imagination, and for their brilliantly casual inclusion. I’ve raved before about how Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves do this and how much I love them for doing so. Because it is an important thing. They make these books so much fun for kids but at the same time they think responsibly about how they present Albie’s world to them. That makes them superheroes in my eyes.

This latest adventure sees Albie turning into a superhero in order to tidy his room in time for ice cream. How to Save a Superhero has all the qualities you expect from a superhero adventure – the villain, mild peril, the trap, the rescue and the okay-i’ll-be-good resolution. It is fast-paced, action-filled and super fun. But guess what? There are different shades of skin colour here! And the villain is female. And there’s a girl superhero. And at one point the girl rescues the boy! 


All brilliant things that make me super happy. But, once again, the children enjoying this book won’t actively notice any of those things. Because THIS BOOK IS SO AWESOME and they will be far too busy dressing up as superheroes and desperately scrawling ‘I want a Flying Game Grabber and a Snooze Ray’ onto their wish lists. As it should be.

Bravo, Caryl! Bravo, Ed! High fives all round.

You can grab your copy here.

Source – kindly sent for review by Simon and Schuster.

Inclusion in How to Catch a Dragon

3 Mar

Following on from my Inclusive Minds call to action, I want to share something with you all. I want to tell you that I love the Albie books by Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves! In fact my whole family loves the series – for differing reasons. My daughter, Mollie, loves the concept, the adventure, the pace and the fun. My wife, Kerry, loves the story lines and text that give her so much to work with when reading aloud to Mollie. (Kerry is very good at voices!) I love them because they are hugely popular award winning books that appeal to children – not ‘just boys’ or ‘just girls’ but children– and because they are gently infiltrating mass market publishing with inclusion. It’s a tough thing to do, but Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves have worked their magic and thought about inclusion when creating these books. That is huge! Being aware of the importance of including diverse characters that reflect society is further than many authors and illustrators ever go. The fact that they have thought about it, discussed and planned and worked with their publishers and achieved some diversity of character, is much to be proud of.

Take a look:

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A female pirate and range of skin colours in Plunge into the Pirate Pool.

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How to Catch a Dragon, my favourite book from the series (so far!) A female troll – much rarer than you’d think – a lovely range of race and a celebration of libraries! “Nobody could EVER be bored in a library”. Brilliant!

Books are so important in helping children to understand the world they live in. In order to do that, books need to be truly representative of our diverse society. Every child should be able to see themselves in their books, whatever their gender, heritage and race, culture, disability, or sexual orientation. For that to happen mainstream books need to represent every child.

The result of a truly inclusive society is that you don’t notice differences. Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves have achieved this in these books. These are not ‘token diversity characters’. Share these books with a classroom of children and they won’t notice that there’s a female pirate or that there are different skin colours on show. They will be too involved in the story and the excitement of the illustrations. But those characters are there and they will be seen without being noticed. And that is a wonderful thing. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me. Because true inclusion should go unnoticed. Radical books are important in paving the way and leading by example. Then inclusive publishers take the lead and publish books that portray a truly diverse society. But when mainstream publishing houses start to follow that lead and inclusion becomes everyday and unnoticed, that is when we know we are getting somewhere. Yes these are baby steps but these baby steps are leading us firmly in the right direction.

Keep going, Caryl and Ed! Keep pushing for what you believe in and know that you are making a difference and helping to change the face of children’s publishing. And thank you to Simon and Schuster for taking steps in the right direction. Keep treading that path!

Source: Bought from our lovely local bookshop, Bags of Books.

My Inclusive Minds call to action

25 Feb

You know when you meet up with a group of like minded people and you instantly feel at home, at ease? Well on Friday I took my family to the Inclusive Minds ‘What About Me?’ event at the Imagine Festival. The whole day had that warm and special feel to it. The day was devoted to inclusion in children’s books and, although we walked in to a room of mostly strangers, before very long we felt like we belonged. We felt like that because it was entirely inclusive. Everything about the event was set up to include everyone and make everyone feel equal. And it worked beautifully.

When we arrived Ben Hawkes was working magic with a large group of children. Sprawled across the floor with felt pens and sheets of paper, Ben and The Curved House Kids team had children of all ages and abilities happily imagining and creating their own stories. Ben is a natural with kids and had them all so engaged. They were all clamouring to show him their work and chatting excitedly about what they were doing, and sharing felt pens with each other. It was a lovely welcoming atmosphere to walk in to. And it stayed that way all day.

Throughout the day there were workshop style events where children could reimagine a story and put themselves in a book. They could include themselves in popular stories like Handa’s Surprise, join in with sensory storytelling, alter character illustrations to reflect themselves, create their own comic strip with their own characters taking centre, or draw themselves and their families on a giant canvas covering the whole wall – all with the help of a team of enthusiastic and approachable illustrators. Rebecca Elliott, Jo Empson, Claudia Boldt, Trudi Esberger, Gem Ahmet, Louie Stowell, Pippa Goodhart, Eileen Browne, Jane Ray, Carol Thompson and more were all at hand to help the children to create, to see themselves in books, and to play. Because that was what it was all about. To allow children to have fun creating their own stories and putting themselves in the picture. Everyone joined in. Everyone was involved and smiling and chatting and drawing and creating. Nobody was left out of the story.

Beth Cox and Alex Strick from Inclusive Minds and all the illustrators and authors that were there to support them did an amazing job of showing the importance of inclusion through showing inclusion in practice. And it worked! During the day we met with Caryl Hart and brought her up to the event. We chatted about The Rainbow Library and the Patron of Reading scheme and the importance of books and the power of seeing yourself and the world around you in them. It was eye opening for both of us. I told her about struggling to find books with same sex parents or books that reflect the beautifully diverse classroom of children that our daughter is a part of. She told me about her efforts to get diverse characters ‘signed off’ by some publishing houses. To stand in the centre of an entirely inclusive event talking about the importance of inclusion was a very powerful thing. We could see it working around us. The proof that it is the right thing to do was everywhere.

We were all there because we care about children and how they see themselves and find themselves in their books. We were all there with the same hopes and passions. We were all included and equal. And that’s how it should be for every child. But it isn’t… yet. Children learn about the world around them by seeing it and reading about it in their books. Their acceptance of all the wonderful differences in life are developed and supported through the literature they are exposed to. But my daughter’s picture books do not reflect the world she lives in. No matter how hard I try to provide her with books that truly reflect society, the majority of books that are published have predominantly white male middle class children (or animal) characters. And then she goes to school or out into her world and sees a very different reality.

So how do we achieve inclusion in children’s books? How do we take the energy and hope and warmth from that room and put it into every child’s book? How do we convince the resistant publishing houses that it is a viable way forward? By buying smart, raising awareness in our reviews and by talking openly. By gently nudging the right people in the right direction.

As the people that buy the books (and I know you guys… you buy books!) we have the power to influence change. We should be supporting the people that are helping us find inclusive books, we should be buying these books, borrowing them from our libraries and supporting the authors, illustrators and publishers that are brave enough to create them. Go to Letterbox Library. Buy from ChildsPlay, Alanna Books, Tara Books, Frances Lincoln and Barefoot Books.

Reviewers can do a lot to raise awareness of the books that are inclusive, that do have female characters, that do show somebody other than a middle class white male.
But we should also be talking about this and raising awareness. We can help by seeing it in action, watching children’s faces as they spot a picture of a child just like them, or a family just like theirs, in a book. By realising the power and positivity that it gives them. By remembering that every child has the right to see themselves in their books, and to be seen and understood by their peers. By knowing this and talking about it with others we can remind authors and illustrators that the world around them is beautifully diverse and that perhaps they could (should?) include that in their work. Perhaps they shouldn’t be writing from an adult’s memory but instead, be writing for a child’s potential. They in turn can gently nudge their publishing houses. Because a lot of small nudges can move mountains.

It really was a wonderful day and a very important and inspiring event. I left it with a renewed sense of possibility and purpose. And I certainly wasn’t the only one!

The Cat, the Mouse and the Runaway Train

5 Aug

You know you’re in for a great read when you open a book to this:

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Look at the detail. The gears, the cogs, the tiny clock hands, the mouse in the midst of it all.

You spotted the cat, right? ….I’ll just wait here while you have another look.

See! Now that is an endpaper. It tells us everything we need to know about this book. It suggests themes of time and rivalry between cat and mouse. It creates a sense of mystery and drama. We’re in!

The Cat, the Mouse and the Runaway Train by Peter Bently and Steve Cox is an adventure of a story, full of action and excitement. We are introduced to the skittery-scattery mouse who lives in the stationmaster’s house and Carruthers the station cat. Immediately we know what their worlds revolve around. The mouse is eyeing up the cheese and the cat is eyeing up the mouse. We are expecting a traditional mouse chase. But hold on, the cat has barely made his move when the mouse is unexpectedly snapped up in the stationmaster’s trap. The stationmaster puts the unlucky mouse in a box and packs her off for the ten o’clock train. (Yes! HER! The mouse is FEMALE! And she gets to be a bit of a hero too.)

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So now the scene is set. Our mouse is in a box on her way to Timbuktu on the 10 o’clock train, the cat is feeling smug and the stationmaster is confident and in control with his pocket watch at the ready and all the luggage neatly stacked to go. The book has been building up to this. The clocks appearing everywhere on every page, the typeface enhancing all the action and building the pace and tension. We are OFF!

And this is where it gets reallyexciting. The mouse escapes, the cat gives chase, they race across the railway tracks… Almost- a tail is stuck… And Oh no! here comes the train speeding along… The brakes aren’t working!! It can’t stop!

We are raced through the pages by the rhythm of the text as we hold on to the edge of our seats and grip our knickers. This is the page that sums up the book for me:

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A brilliant montage that brings the characters and elements of the plot together in a very cinematic way. Can’t you just hear the soundtrack? I love the repeated inset images of the stationmasters pocket watch throughout the book, quietly showing us how close to peril we really are! This book is one of those beautiful matches where the author and illustrator fit perfectly and truly enhance each other’s work. One would be significantly less without the other.

There are a handful of authors who can really do rhyming text well. I always feel in safe hands when reading their books. Julia Donaldson, Caryl Hart, Tracey Corderoy, Peter Bently. They have a way with words and rhythm that bring a text to life, make it more, rather than force it into a rhyme. Peter Bently has done a beautiful job of pacing this text and using exactly the right words in the right place to enhance the action. The text never feels stilted or awkward, actually, you are so engrossed in the adventure you forget that there is any text.

This is a book that children will really enjoy. I think they will relish the thrills and spills of the text, and the illustrations are crammed full of things to identify and look at. I particularly enjoyed the stationmaster’s sweet tooth! It’s a book that will give children’s sense of adventure a boost up the bottom and give them the opportunity to hear what language can achieve when in the hands of an expert.

I approve of this book wholeheartedly and have popped it straight to the top of the pile to share with the Rainbow Library children in September.

Source: Kindly sent for review by Hodder Children’s books.