Tag Archives: Girl with a White Dog

Books for a Future

12 Nov


We are all reeling from the American election results and the impact a Trump-led leadership is already having on tolerance, equality and justice. And all that on top of our own Brexit backlash! This shift to a right wing leadership is going to have a huge impact on the most vulnerable in our communities and will leave a lasting legacy for our children to fix. 

So what can we do? We can stand together and stand up to bigotry and hate. Now is the time for solidarity, kindness and inclusion. It’s more important than ever to teach the children in our lives to stand up for what they believe in and to look out for others. My social media has been full of positivity and plans for action. It’s one of the things I love most about social media – when the shit hits, there’s always an uprising of hope. 

So here’s what I’m going to do, and I’d love for you to join me…

*Goes full Whitney* I believe the children are our future. And I believe that books can change the world. So I’m going to bring the two together by gifting an empowering, inclusive book to my local school every month, as well as highlighting the best of the bunch on here. 

Books teach children about the world they live in, and in turn about tolerance, appreciating diversity and supporting others. I want to arm children with these qualities. They are going to need them!

This is something everyone can do to make a difference. We all have children in our lives, whether in our families, in our social groups or in our communities. Sharing empowering books with them could make all the difference. And it doesn’t have to cost money. You could donate your time and talk to these kids about books and the world, or share the book recommendations with parents and teachers you know to help get these books to the kids. 


The first book I’m going to give is Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst (Bloomsbury). It seems very apt! I love this book more than I can say. It’s a hugely empowering, fun and fact-filled picture book about women who changed the world across very different fields, including Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie, Mary Anning, Mary Seacole, Amelia Earhart, Agent Fifi, Sacagawa, Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks, and Anne Frank. I want to push this book into the hands of every girl and tell them it will be okay. That they can do it. That we believe in them and that we’ve got their backs. 


Want to join me? Perhaps you could gift a book to your local school, library or community group? Or to a child in your life? Perhaps you could give your time to read with a child at a local school. Have a look at Beanstalk and see if they work with schools in your area. Because reading unlocks the future. 

Sadly this awesome book is out of stock pretty much everywhere at the moment – that’s how good it is! – but more stock is coming and there are tons of fantastically inclusive and inspirational books out there. Perhaps you could gift one of these:

If you are concerned about right wing views on refugees and migration you could gift The Journey. If you fear for the freedom of the press and the impact of a biased media you could give Girl with a White Dog. If you want to empower young women you could give What’s a Girl Gotta Do? If you want to support inclusion try any of The Great Big Book… series. For LGBT awareness you could gift Made By Raffi. Or have a look at Letterbox Library for inspiration. 

I’ll be using #booksforafuture to share the book giving and highlight other awesome world-changing and empowering books that our children deserve in their lives. Come and join me. What books would you add to the list? 

Little Rebels and Radical Acts of Kindness

11 May

I missed The London Radical Book Fair and the awarding of the Little Rebels Award on Saturday. We were away visiting family and I couldn’t make it. But I was there in spirit and via Twitter and it prompted a lot of thinking over the weekend. Allow me to share…

Letterbox Library’s Little Rebels Award celebrates radical children’s books; those that stand up for diversity, inclusion and above all, social justice. They are books that show children the world and how they can make it better. These books are the ones we should want our future leaders to be reading now. Books that let us imagine a future that stands against social injustice and discrimination. Hurrah for the Little Rebels shortlisted authors and winner, Gill Lewis! And for Letterbox Library who back the award. 

  

(Picture by Letterbox Library)

I will be honest, I really wanted Anne Booth‘s Girl With a White Dog to win. It is an exceptional book that deals with immigration, inclusion, and what can happen when people demonise difference. It is a book that awoke a real sense of social responsibility in the children I read it with. It is also a wonderful story, beautifully written. I wanted it to win because it warns about excluding people that are ‘other’, and it teaches children to look at the world with empathy and understanding and not to be led by propaganda. After Friday morning’s election results I felt like we needed this book more than ever. 

How do we deal with the fallout from last week’s election? So much disappointment and anger and incredulity. I think it’s easy to feel guilty for not doing enough before the elections, to blame others, and to feel helpless and despondent. But that won’t help those already being squashed and it won’t prevent further injustice. I think reading the shortlisted books would be a great place to start. Share them with your children, your friends’ children, donate them to your local school. Because these books could change the world. And let’s face it… We need a bit of that right now. 

When I heard the results on Friday morning I headed straight for Twitter and was so boosted by the positivity on my timeline. There was (is!) a real desire to work together to fight further cuts and act as a safety net for those who are being affected; to make things better. It has reminded me that real change happens not when political parties win elections, but when people take a stand against injustice, and are willing to fight for an inclusive future, together. My Twitter feed is full of booky peeps, journalists, artists, and theatre peeps. It is generally a very inclusive and forward thinking bunch. But the children’s authors especially were winning Twitter on Friday.

By 9am Friday morning, Michelle Robinson was calling for a mass donation to food banks to offset some of the Tory ugliness. Lots of us did. Later that day, thanks to Polly Faber, #foodbankfriday was born – a weekly food bank donation to support people who are being squashed by cuts. 

There was talk of our kindness being seen as support for Cameron’s Big Society. That he will take the credit for our actions. Well, let him. Just because he is a self-serving arrogant bigot doesn’t mean we have to follow his lead. Let’s be inclusive and empathetic and support those who are affected by the Government and their actions. Let’s help pick up the pieces. But let’s not do it quietly. 

  
Elli is absolutely right with her comment above. We mustn’t mop up the mess quietly. We must rage and raise awareness, we must support those who have the power and legal knowledge to fight the cuts and we must take action to stand up for what we believe in. Together. 

So let’s all be Little Rebels. Let’s make Radical Acts of Kindness. Let’s donate to food banks, volunteer, support, sustain. But let’s back up each act of kindness with action. Join a protest group, join an organisation that fights for justice, support them, donate to them so they can make change happen. And share it all on social media so that others can make their own Radical Acts of Kindness too. #LittleRebelRAK

Here’s my starter:

David Cameron wants to replace our Human Rights Act with his own leaner and meaner version- the British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. Let’s not stand for that. Share your support here:

https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/campaigning/save-our-human-rights-act

And here:

http://www.amnesty.org.uk/issues/Human-Rights-Act

The shortlisted books are available here:

Girl With a White Dog by Anne Booth (Catnip Books)

Grandma by Jessica Shepherd (Child’s Play)

Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz, illustrated  by Margaret Chamberlain (Janetta Otter-Barry Books/Frances Lincoln)

Nadine Dreams of Home by Bernard Ashley (Barrington Stoke)

Pearl Power by Mel Elliott (I Love Mel)

Scarlet Ibis by Gill Lewis (Oxford University Press)

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton (Walker Books)

Trouble on Cable Street by Joan Lingard (Catnip Books)

This book will change the world.

23 May

In the last few weeks I’ve been reading a lot of books for older children and looking for books to recommend to my year six book group. There is a wide range of ability and interests in the group but a lot of passion and a lot of great ideas. I want to start sharing a few of the books that are inspiring my year six kids. This one has been more than a hit.

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Girl with a White Dog by Anne Booth. Quick disclaimer – I would consider Anne a friend but she hasn’t pulled my arm behind my back or bribed me with chocolate to recommend her book. She just wrote a stonkingly good book that genuinely has the potential to open eyes to the wider world and inspire children to want to change it. She wrote a book that I feel compelled to thrust upon people and buy for all my friends and recommend (fairly forcefully) to my year 6 kids. There’s no wonder that Girl with a White Dog was chosen as one of Booktrust’s Books of the Month in March.

Jessie is excited when her gran gets a white Alsatian puppy, but with Snowy’s arrival a mystery starts to unfold. As Jessie learns about Nazi Germany at school, past and present begin to slot together and she uncovers something long-buried, troubling and somehow linked to another girl and another white dog.

I love this book for its sensitive portrayal of a child growing up and learning about moral responsibility in a world that can be full of intolerance and discrimination. It is beautifully and naturally inclusive and manages to quietly raise the reader’s awareness of the importance of moral and social responsibility.

My year six children have relished this book. Are relishing it. I bought them a copy to share within the group and they now have my copy on loan too. They all know exactly who has a copy and are watching closely for their opportunity to grab one as soon as it is finished. They have been moved by the story and inspired by Anne’s writing. It has provoked, awakened, engaged and changed them. We have had wonderful and passionate discussions about immigration and UKIP and social responsibility, about discrimination and the responsibility of honest and fair media reporting. Girl with a White Dog has enabled them to look at their world and question what they see, and that is hugely important. That is a life skill that will help them change the world for the better.

Congratulations, Anne. You have written a book that is engaging children and inspiring them to think and assess their role in the world. It is making them look towards a more positive and fair future. Hurrah to you and hurrah to Girl with a White Dog.

Buy your copy from Hive here.

I have faith in books

17 Nov

I have been holding things in my chest this week. Walking with them, thinking about them and weighing them against the world. Last night I wrote about a funeral that has made me look at life through new eyes. It had such a big impact on me because the woman we were celebrating, Claire, had a huge impact on everyone she met. She was a very special person, and she has left a legacy that I am working to live up to, so please bear with me for all the references to this lately.

The funeral was very religious. I am not religious but the faith of those around us last week was palpable and the comfort and hope their faith gave them was visible.

I have faith in books and I have faith in people. And both have helped me in the last weeks. So thank you to Loll, Daisy, Zoe and my twitter crew for uplifting and inspiring chat about the future. And thank you to the books. I want to share some of the books that I have picked up to give me hope and inspiration.

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Some have obvious links to loss and hope. Some have inspired my creativity and my belief in the magic of reading and the power of change. Some have made me smile and look at the world through glittery eyes. I’ll write about them over the next few days and link their reviews back to this page.

(Troll Wood)

Snowflakes

I also want to point you in the direction of Anne Booth’s debut book due to be published in March 2014. I believe in Anne. I have been chatting with her on twitter for some time now. She has faith in books and in people and she cares. I haven’t read her book yet but I have it excitedly on pre-order and I am confident that her faith in people will shine through.
In her latest blog post she says:
“I want people to buy and read ‘Girl with a White Dog’ because it is my attempt to tell a different, kinder story to the one I see told every day in newspaper headlines and on television. I want another story out there, at this time in our history, about people who are different from/to/than us. I just want to add what I can to the sum of debates about austerity and immigration, because we have been through something terrible already in our living history and, in honour of all those people who died in WW2, we can do something to prevent it happening again. I have tried to put lovely things in this book – a white dog, for example. I have tried to write about goodness and forgiveness so that the bad parts don’t overwhelm the story – I want children to love this story, not to be scared by it, but I also want them to be left with a resolution that there are parts of our history that should not be repeated, and that they have the power to ensure that they aren’t.”

See? She is full of faith in people and hope for the future. Hooray for her. You can pre-order, Girl with a White Dog here. I am confident that you won’t be disappointed.