Tag Archives: Celebrating Diversity

Young Ambassadors for diversity and inclusion

21 Apr

I’m making the assumption that if you read this blog you are already on board with the fact that inclusive and diverse books are groovy and important things. I figure you know that they can, and will, help the next generation change the world. And that’s why I want to share this campaign for Young Ambassadors by Inclusive Minds. They want to develop a network of young ambassadors with real experience of marginalisation (in all areas of diversity), who will share their knowledge with the book world. They will be the ace team who comment on ideas and manuscripts and help authors and the children’s publishing industry to create authentic diverse voices. This project has already been successfully piloted and will help to dramatically improve authenticity in books and give young people a real voice in the children’s book world. But they need our help.

Inclusive Minds is a not-for-profit collective who work with the children’s publishing industry to push for more inclusive and diverse characters and stories. They are awesome and they are making a real difference. Their crowdfunding campaign to roll out their Young Ambassadors campaign only has 8 days left and they need help to reach their target. There are some incredible perks on offer, like signed artwork and books, an hour’s consultation with Inclusive Minds for your writing and a ticket to the next Children’s Laureate ‘unveiling ‘. Even if you can’t contribute financially at the moment, please have a read of their plan – it might be something that can help the authors/creators among us – and consider sharing it.

I know times are hard but this campaign could make a huge difference to the books that the next generation are reading, showing them a wider more inclusive world view and helping them grow up to be empathetic and awesome human beings. Plus, end of month pay day is coming up and should fall within the last few days of the campaign.

Have a look here. Be a part of the mission to change the world, one book at a time.

Pea’s Books of Pure Joy by Susie Day

17 Jun

I spend a lot of time looking for and championing inclusive books. Books that show real people and real characters, reflecting the true diversity of our world. If I could have given you an overview of what I have been personally looking for, it would have looked a bit like this:

20140617-174857.jpg

I can’t tell you how happy the Pea books make me. If only there had been books like these around when I was a girl. I would have devoured them then as joyously as I am savouring them now.

Full of wonderfully diverse characters that are beautifully real and flawed and intriguing, Susie Day’s Pea books are the books I am foisting upon everyone at the moment. My friends, their children, my year six book group, my daughter’s school librarian, anyone who will listen to me! Because I think these books are really important and I think people deserve to be able to read them as much as the books deserve to be read.

I am so thankful that my daughter will be able to read these when she is a bit older. She will be able to read about real children who grow up in diverse families that are brilliantly unique and creative and imaginative and caring and fun. She will be able to read about a family like hers – one that has two mums. And she probably won’t even notice because the story won’t be about that. The story will be about things that she will care about – finding a new best friend, settling in at a new school, having a really good birthday party, planning what job to do as a grown up.

Hurrah to Susie Day for creating genuinely diverse characters that are refreshing, relevant, unique and casually included. For me, casual inclusion is when you have no idea that you are about to meet these characters. When the book is all about the story and the fun. When the book looks like it could fit nicely in to any child’s bookcase or any school shelf and looks enticing enough for the child to want to grab it and read it. The inclusion is secondary to the story itself and the book is something that children want to read. Congratulations to Susie Day – she’s nailed it on all those fronts.

This is storytelling at its best. Brilliantly skilful writing, fantastic characters, and a series that you will never want to end. I am off to read the latest book in the series, Pea’s Book of Holidays. Treat yourself to a few copies – you’ll be wanting to share!

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:

20140303-105138.jpg
A female pirate and range of skin colours in Plunge into the Pirate Pool.

20140303-110209.jpg

20140303-113509.jpg
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.

Where’s Lenny? The perfect book for a nursery.

13 Feb

Where’s Lenny? by Ken Wilson-Max is a nursery or play group’s dream book! It is just brilliant on so many levels!

20140213-133946.jpg

The version I have is a lovely chunky hardcover, just the right size for toddlers to handle themselves and with gently rounded edges. Even the pages themselves are perfect for the age-group. Rounded card pages that are shiny enough to be splatter resistant and thick enough to be tear-proof, yet still flexible enough for little ones to manage and learn how to turn carefully. This is a wonderful step up from a board book before a paperback picture book – resilient is the word I would use! Toddler-proof!

Lenny is playing hide and seek with Daddy. The reader conspires with Lenny as he swaps his hiding place and stays one step ahead of Daddy. I love the way this brings the reader in and involves them in the game. Children will be squealing and pointing as Lenny runs up the stairs or sneaks behind the sofa. A lovely touch.

The language is immediate and exciting and helps to engage the child in the game. It even includes counting to ten, with numerals for the children to follow. The illustrations work beautifully to keep the child’s interest, bright and bold with not too much going on so that the focus can be drawn to cheeky Lenny as he disappears off again.

20140213-134057.jpg

For me, the true beauty of this book is the way it reflects our diverse society. The illustrations show a mixed race family. Dad is playing with Lenny while Mum is fixing a lightbulb. Little things, but so, so important. Hurrah!

20140213-134143.jpg

This book really is perfect for a nursery, where it can teach children about our world and fill them with fun and giggles. So my copy is off to The Rainbow Library where it can sit happily in a Brighton nursery and do its job daily.

Thank you to Frances Lincoln Children’s Books for sending me this review copy.

‘This is Me!’ Book packs

19 Jun

After a few weeks away from the blog I am back and picking up right where I left off, with the ever-inspiring Inclusive Minds and Letterbox Library. But this time… Together! Exciting, hey?

In my previous posts I have chatted with Beth from Inclusive Minds and Fen from Letterbox Library and celebrated the amazing work they do to champion inclusive books. Now they have combined forces for a special project creating two ‘This is Me!’ book packs, one for early years

20130619-140536.jpg

and one for primary years.

20130619-142413.jpg

These book packs have been carefully selected by Letterbox Library in collaboration with Inclusive Minds to celebrate the best and brightest in inclusive children’s books. Here’s what they have to say about them:
“Bright, breezy and fun-packed. A gorgeous mix of board books and picture books. Ideal for nurturing positive attitudes to diversity and difference in the very young. Multicultural, global, images of disability and gentle challenges to gender stereotyping. A perfectly embracing collection!” (Early years book pack)
“Our celebration of diversity and ‘natural’ inclusion continues with these Real Books which have also been selected for their strong characterisations and engaging narratives.” (Primary book pack)

I am genuinely excited about these book packs. As well as a few familiar titles there are some new and intriguing books that I can’t wait to get my hands on. They look great, and they have passed the Letterbox Library and Inclusive Minds test, so I know they will be great.

The Early years pack includes:

Daddy, Papa, and Me (1056)
Mommy, Mama, and Me (1057)
Freddie and the Fairy (1401)
The Great Big Book of Families (1018)
Lulu Loves Stories + CD (1318)
Mary Had a Little Lamb (0192)
My Face Book (0012)
Max The Champion (0193)
One, Two, Three…Run! (0194)
This Is Our House + DVD (9539)
Siddharth and Rinki (9870)
The Worst Princess (0195)

And the Primary pack:

10,000 Dresses (0196)
Because Amelia Smiled (0197)
Being Ben (0198)
The Big Brother (1343)
A Bus Called Heaven (0199)
The Django (0142)
Fussy Freya (0143)
Granny Torrelli Makes Soup (8736)
Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon (0200)
Pass It, Polly (9813)
The Unforgotten Coat (0053B)
What’s Up With Jody Barton? (0201)

Over the next month or so I plan to review the early years ‘This is Me!’ book pack and the lower age range books from the primary pack. Watch this space! All the books can be bought separately from Letterbox Library. They have done all the leg work to ensure that the books they sell are truly inclusive, so if any of these titles catch your eye, visit them and reward their efforts by ordering the books from them, here.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell and Henry Cole

4 Mar

20130305-111427.jpg

In the middle of New York in Central Park zoo there live two penguins called Roy and Silo. They do everything together, just like the other penguin families and all the other animal families in the zoo. But Roy and Silo are a little bit different, they are both boy penguins.

They do everything the other penguin families do. They bow to each other, sing to each other and build a home together. But when it comes to laying and hatching an egg they realise that the other penguins can do something they can’t.

20130305-103103.jpg

They lovingly care for a rock in their nest but nothing happens. Poor Roy and Silo. But their keeper Mr Gramzay has been watching them and he has an idea. He gives them an egg that needs to be cared for and Roy and Silo know exactly what to do. Before long…

20130305-103503.jpg

It takes two to make a Tango! I know! I can hear your hearts melting from here, that one even got in through my hide. This is a gem of a book, proving the quote from the back cover ‘all you need to make a family is love’. I love the gentle illustrations and the subtle expressions on the penguins faces.

Tango is a beautiful book to introduce same sex parents, adoption and diverse families to young children. Children are used to animals being used to introduce human situations in picture books but Tango goes one step further and explicitly links the animal families to human families at the beginning and again at the end of the book. This is a touching way of emphasising the similarities to children’s own home lives and experiences and the positivity of the message. It’s a gorgeous way to tell the story, it feels like being taken by the hand and gently led in to the zoo and introduced to the characters. Perfect for little ones.

For slightly older children the author’s note at the back explains the true story behind the book. It includes some facts about penguins and tells the real story of where Roy and Silo’s egg came from. Older children will lap this up and it will enhance the message of the book and the connection to real life. Great touch!

I am just a little bit in love with Tango and I think I would like to shake Mr Gramzay by the hand. Hurrah to all involved for creating a book full of positivity, celebration of diversity and above all, love.

Source: Purchased for Rainbow library, via Letterbox Library thanks to kind donation from Alison Fennell