Category Archives: Books

Youthquake!

A collection of inspiring stories about incredible young people who have shaped the world we live in!

No one is too small to start a YouthQuake! This is the story of fearless activists, brilliant inventors, champion athletes, gifted creators and inspiring leaders. It is the story of tremendous trailblazers who have influenced change with their passion, courage and determination, and whose inspirational actions and groundbreaking achievements have shaken the world…

Stunningly illustrated and wonderfully written, this incredible collection contains the true stories of 50 children and young people who shook the world. With wise words from each of the children, fascinating facts, beautiful photographs and gorgeous art, this powerful gift book will engage, entertain and inspire future change-makers everywhere.

List of children and young people featured: Greta Thunberg, William Kamkwamba, Ruth Lawrence, Mary Anning, Ann Makosinski, Blaise Pascal, Richard Turere, Boyan Slat, Reyhan Jamalova, Jordan Casey, Stevie Wonder, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Emma Watson, Pablo Picasso, Björk, Louis Braille, Clara Schumann, Skyler Grey, Shirley Temple, Wang Yani, Anne Frank, Nkosi Johnson, Gulwali Passarlay, Marley Dias, Malala Yousafzai, Momcilo Gavric, Michaela Mycroft, Calvin Graham, Mohamad Al Jounde, Hannah Taylor, Pelé, Laura Dekker, Ellie Simmonds, Jade Hameister, Sachin Tendulkar, Red Gerard, Bethany Hamilton, Temba Tsheri, Nadia Comaneci, Billy Monger, Pocahontas, Hector Pieterson, Samantha Smith, Claudette Colvin, Iqbal Masih, Thandiwe Chama, Kimmie Weeks, Mayra Avellar Neves, Neha Gupta, Emma González.

Other titles in the series include: HerStory and WildLives

Nosy Crow
Youthquake is brilliantly illustrated by Sarah Walsh

I really enjoyed this collection of short biographies of some fascinating young people. The range is brilliant, in terms of area of interest, the era the child lived/lives in, and geographically. I asked the author, Tom Adams, a few questions!

How did you begin researching the book? I thought a collection of stories about children that had done extraordinary things would be both appealing to readers, but also incredibly interesting to research and write. I started gathering ideas and as ever, as soon as you’re aware of something, possible subjects seem to pop up everywhere.
Once I realised there were plenty of incredible stories to tell, I started looking in earnest. A lot of basic research was done online but I found that whilst you got a hint of story, you didn’t always get the details that fleshed out characters. I spent quite a while at the British Library tracking down
specific books for extra background.

I’m sure there were lots of interesting characters that you didn’t have space for, how did you decide who made the cut? I put together a long list of possibilities with my editor at Nosy Crow, the brilliant Victoria English. We had a couple of meetings where we discussed each of the children and their stories and gradually began to build a list of 50. Victoria had the great idea of grouping them into chapters that focussed on different qualities – leadership, creativity and so on – which helped us make decisions whilst ensuring an even spread.
We were keen to have a mix of boys and girls, older and more modern stories and and stories that focussed on different cultures. And, importantly, they had to have a story we felt people would be interested in hearing about. We drew up a long list and slowly whittled it down to 50.
I did start work on a good half dozen or so other characters, but eventually felt their stories weren’t strong enough, were too politically driven or I found some skeletons in the closet that didn’t seem appropriate for a children’s book.

The design of the book, and Sarah Walsh’s illustrations, are a big part of why this is a great book. Were there lots of conversations about how it would look and what pictures would be used before you started writing, or during the writing process? Or did you write the words first and the rest fell in to place around them? Very much the latter. I’d seen Sarah’s work in HerStory and WildLives so knew I could expect some brilliant artwork with huge amounts of expression that would make the stories come alive. It was an interesting process, to see which parts of each story Sarah would gravitate to and decide to illustrate. It was one of the most enjoyable parts of putting the book together…waiting for her first roughs to come back to see how each page would look. I fed back very little – although I do remember explaining a little about how cricket works on the Tendulkar spread. Nadia Comaneci’s
backflips and Mayra Avellar Neves’s flower-filled portrait are two pieces of work that I really love.

If you could choose one of the featured children to write more about, who would it be? That’s a tough one! As Victoria knows, I often wrote a lot more than made the book. I find keeping to the word count very difficult. But, if I had to choose, it would probably be Iqbal Masih, a little boy from Pakistan. Shockingly, he was murdered when he was just 12-years old, but he was a boy with so much courage and determination. He had such a difficult start to life, essentially being a slave worker to a factory owner, and even when he escaped, his story didn’t end there. He fought the factory owners and that bravery eventually cost him his life.

Have you talked to children about the book? Would you/do you enjoy Zoom events about it? I’ve not talked to children about the book…other than my own. I’ve not done an author event before and the idea does slightly terrify me, but I think it’s good to get out there!

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to? I’ve usually got a couple of books on the go, often fiction and non-fiction. I’m currently reading Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell. It’s the story of a ‘60s band and their path to stardom. I play guitar in a band in my spare time so it’s making me wonder what might have been! I’m also reading
Citizens of London by Lynne Olson. It covers a period in Britain from after WW1 to the end of WW2 and looks at certain Americans who lived and worked in the UK and helped cement the relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt.
I also read a lot of children’s fiction and two books I recently enjoyed were The Other Alice by Michelle Harrison, a great story-within-a-story structure about the dangers of ‘writer’s block’, and The Dollmaker of Krakow by RM Romero. I thought this was a heartbreaking tale, beautifully written, that did a wonderful job of getting across the horrors of Nazism to young readers.

What is your next project? Might there be a Youthquake Volume 2?
I’m finishing off another book for Nosy Crow, working with Victoria again. It’s all about mysteries – everything from Bigfoot and the Yeti, to stones that move in the dead of night and ancient codes that can’t be cracked. I’m working with another great illustrator, Yaz Imamura, who can do ‘creepy’
so, so well! It’s looking amazing so far and I can’t wait until it’s finished.
Beyond that…I’m not sure. I’ve got some ideas that I’m working up, but I’d never say ‘no’ to a YouthQuake 2!

Nosy Crow very kindly let me share a couple of my favourite spreads with you: Mary Anning (some of you will know that I’m a geology fan) and Marley Dias (Books and #BlackGirlMagic!).

YOUTHQUAKE is out now! Thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me a copy.

When Secrets Set Sail

Usha is devastated when her grandmother Kali Ma passes away. Then straight-talking Imtiaz arrives – her new adoptive sister – and the two girls clash instantly. They both feel lost. That is until Kali Ma’s ghost appears…with a task for them.

Immy’s and Usha’s home is full of history and secrets. Many years ago it was The House of the Ayahs – for those nannies who couldn’t return to their Indian homeland – and Kali Ma made a promise she couldn’t keep. She can’t pass on to the other side until the girls fulfil it.

Today, Usha and Immy’s over-worked parents run the house as a home for refugees, but eviction threatens. The precious documents that could save them are lost. As the house slowly fills up with ghosts, that only Usha and Imtiaz can see, the girls realise they have more to save than just one grandmother’s ghost.

With help from their new friend Cosmo, Usha and Immy must set off on a quest through London, accompanied by two bickering ghosts, working together to find a series of objects that shine a magical light on their family’s past and hold the clues to securing their future.

If they can set the secrets of generations free, will they be in time to save their home?

Endorsed by Amnesty International

Hachette

Sita Brahmachari seems to be one of the hardest working children’s authors in the UK, and one of my favourites. I had the great pleasure of asking her some questions about her latest book WHEN SECRETS SET SAIL, and her answers are fabulous.

Your books always have “issues” at the heart of them and provoke the reader to discover a piece of history they might not know about, or consider impacts or viewpoints they might not have recognised before. How difficult is it to ensure that they are always exciting stories and not just didactic tomes?

First and foremost I’m fascinated by people’s lives and how the events in their lives, their actions or the things that happen to them impact on the world. I don’t think when people become refugees or are affected by climate change, face mental health challenges, are newly adopted, experience a death in the family or face homelessness or racism or child hunger that they experience these moments in life as ‘issues.’ I don’t shy away from some of the great challenges young people face today but as a writer I’m interested in nuance and getting beyond ‘issues’ to a multi-layered story. I feel that stories are superpower empathy portholes…and in these reactionary times that feels like a vital porthole to be able to open.

When I set out to write a story I might think I know what’s at the core of it, but my synopsis often bears little relation to the final book! The process of storytelling is an adventure for me. I always get taken by the characters into unexpected realms and it’s a real joy when these discoveries and unravellings are experienced and enjoyed by the reader.

It’s always finding characters, symbols and landscapes that really take me into the dreaming space of stories. The artichoke charm from my first story ‘ Artichoke Hearts’ is a guiding symbol for me; I’m constantly unpeeling the layers of characters and wanting to explore their sensibilities; their hopes, fears and dreams. This is what sparks my imagination and takes me into the heart of the story.  Often, as I write, it’s the characters I had thought were on the periphery that take centre stage because, as in life, it is fascinating to get to know people even when, or perhaps especially when, they may seem to be polar opposites to ourselves.

This is how I discovered characters like Themba and Luca in ‘Where the River Runs Gold’ and Imtiaz and Cosmo in ‘When Secrets Set Sail’. Originally ‘When Secrets Set Sail’ was written only from Usha’s point of view then Imtiaz made me see the error of my ways! And I’ve found that Imtiaz not done with me yet, she and Cosmo wanted their own adventure so they appear again in my World Book Day story next year ‘The River Whale.’

The subjects you include in your stories can be very upsetting, do you sometimes find it difficult to do the research?

I hope that my stories contain the gamut of human experience and although I’m not afraid to tackle the most complex of emotions, I always want my stories to scatter hope-seeds. They are inter-generational stories and one thing I’ve realised that no matter what dire situations the characters face there is always someone there to hold them.

I tend to do hands on research. My preference is to work with people. My work with refugee people since I began work in community theatre has informed my characters in many stories and plays. In art as in life once you take people to heart you don’t want to turn your back on them. So If I write about a difficult subject like someone I know or have worked with has faced then my main concern is to find the truth in that experience and to convey the empathy I feel for the characters that grow out of my research and engagements in community. I think engagement is everything and when you engage with people you are naturally moved by their stories, laughing as well as crying with them.

I often place a space in time between research and writing to allow the thoughts and feelings to distil and settle and to find the freedom to move from fact into fiction.

If I was to set out to write a novel at the stage that the research is on top of me I think there would be a real danger that the work would become didactic, something I would hate for my stories to be. An example of this is the experience of helping an elderly homeless woman bathe her feet in a refuge led me to create the character of Elder in ‘Red Leaves’ who is part bark-skinned homeless woman , part tree and ancient spirit of the ancient caring wood!

When children like Pari in ‘Tender Earth’ or Shifa and Themba in ‘Where The River Runs Gold’ are going hungry and needing to use food banks, as so many children are today, children and young people are feeling the discomfort of that sometimes in their own hunger pains, but when I write I think about creative narrative that both recognise the realities of that and offers hope seeds for transformation.

I think a lot about where children place these feelings that the real world ignites in them.  For me stories are magical empathy portholes… they allow us to dream of coming together to change the things that disempower us and to overcome what might seem insurmountable.

In writing fiction I need to know my story is grounded in truths I have discovered from research but then I need to immerse myself in the storytelling adventure and step into dream time.

Perhaps because of late the world, in Wordsworth words has been ‘too much with us’ in my recent novels I have wanted to explore the potential of magical transformations in relation to the realities the children in my stories face.

The idea of unheard stories and oral histories not being forgotten is huge and important, and  the author’s note at the end of WHEN SECRETS SET SAIL tells us the fascinating inspirations for the Ayahs’ story, but where did Imtiaz and Usha, and the idea of them becoming sisters, come from?

 In unravelling the story of the Ayahs – one of abandonment and care- I was looking for contemporary characters who in one way or another would deeply understand why the Ayah ghost ‘Lucky’ would need to set her spirit free by having her story told.

What moved me about the story of the Ayah nursemaids was the dual abandonment. Ayahs found themselves far from home and abandoned but the children they had cared for must have suffered so deeply too from being torn away from each other. That idea is what led me to grow the characters of Imtiaz and Usha.

I don’t think I realised when I set out how the story is as much about Imtiaz and Usha’s contemporary herstory as it is about the Ayahs… the waves of the colonial story from the Ayah’s time is literally in the bricks and mortar of the home they set aside their differences to save. As I wrote I realised that for contemporary readers the journey of these two very different girls to becoming loving sisters had to be central to their discovery of the history of their home.

I often write about family, friendship, belonging and community and have presented many different kinds of families in my stories. With Imtiaz my idea was to see how a looked after child with the most difficult of starts in the world, given the opportunity to feel secure and loved, might grow.

Usha doesn’t have to make an effort to belong but Imtiaz does. It seemed to me that in microcosm that is a theme that also links to the untold stories of the ayahs … if you know that your story is told you have assurance and ease of your place in it… if like the Ayahs and Imtiaz’s your story is hidden or ‘blocked’ (in the ear of the conch)… then there is effort involved to strive to be heard.

This tension between the girls gave me a lot. Here are two girls with shared migrant identities, but very different starts in life who can’t see each other’s ghosts or empathise with each other- but need to believe in each other if they are to stay sisters and save their home. They were, in many ways, the key to me releasing the Ayah’s story into the world.  I have often said stories are an act of communal making and I have to thank my insightful editor Tig Wallace for keeping the historical quest in this story grounded in the ups and downs of Imtiaz and Usha’s relationship!

I also found in their different early lives an interesting contrast. Between them they share wide diaspora birth families, crossing class, cultures, religions and oceans but who they identify with most strongly are those who care for them and love them. Their deep understanding of this gives them keen instincts to uncover the Ayah story.

I love that you found out about the campaign for a Blue Plaque for the Ayahs’ Home as you were finishing writing the book, the videos on the Hachette schools page are great, and I like the idea of encouraging children to make nominations for a blue plaque, have you thought of any yourself, and has it inspired more story ideas?

It was incredible to press send on my story and then discover this event. Some of the adult characters like Valini in ‘When Secrets Set Sail’ talk about ‘fate’ and ‘things being meant!’ but this really did feel like serendipity at its superpower best!

At this brilliant event at Hackney Libraries I met Rozina Visram whose research was central to discovering the Ayah story and I also met Farhanah Mamoojee a wonderful young historian and activist who has been campaigning for a Blue Plaque to recognise the Ayahs Home. Watch this space!

Sita Brahmachari with Farhanah Mamoojee, outside the Ayahs Home

It’s been a real joy to work together with Farhanah @ayahshome to sit on the steps of the real life houses where the Ayahs lived together and to share in the launch of this story into the world… in many ways I feel as if I have met a grown up Imtiaz!

If I could nominate a Blue Plaque to anyone it would be to

Elyse Dodgson (1945- 2018)

Adopted Londoner!

Visionary educator, international new writing director and enabler of young people’s talent the world over.  Some of her fierce equality seeking spirit and a little of her name has found its way into the character of Delyse in my story. Her first play created with students in her Vauxhall School ‘Motherland’ has been a lifelong inspiration to me.

Elyse gave my first job as a young person leaving university at The Royal Court Young People’s Theatre… as community theatre worker. She told me that my work first and foremost was to listen to the communities and ‘welcome them to storytelling’ so that they find their voice. I’ve never forgotten that.

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2018/nov/02/elyse-dodgson-obituary

(I’m breaking the Blue Plaque rules that someone needs to be deceased for twenty years and I encourage young readers who want to take part in the project to do the same! If they want to nominate a quiet hero or heroine whose alive for this imaginary project – why not!)

Have you done any virtual events this year?

I’ve done quite a few virtual events in different formats this year. In the build up to publication it was wonderful to be invited to be part of the South Asian Literature Festival and to have such positive responses to that from people joining from around the world – a sort of virtual globe window – that’s a real positive.

The virtual launch with The Children’s Book Shop in Muswell Hill was perhaps my favourite because it was in a wonderful real life bookshop! I felt connected with the community.

Jane Ray and I have been continuing our work with refugee people running our art and writing class by gathering around what we’ve now named out ‘Virtual Hearth’ – no matter how hard it is – the connection is so worthwhile.

At this time teachers and librarians have been amazing in their resilience. In the face of so many day to day challenges they have kept the reading for pleasure banner flying high. Like so many authors I’ve been busy adapting and learning new zooming skills and doing virtual events… Dominic Kingston and Felicity Highett at Hachette has been a real support in helping me with this and also Pop Up Festival has offered excellent training… BUT… We’ve all discovered things about ourselves during this time and one of the things I realise is how much I love being in a reality-room/ hall with readers! Over the years I have visited many schools and it is here, in the direct and indirect engagements with readers that I have understood so much about writing. Very often, as I’m talking I will notice there is a child at the periphery of the room who is perhaps doodling and not obviously engaging. I’ll catch their eye and know that something I have written and am talking about has impacted them… I have a treasure hoard of letters and art from these children that often inspire me to write the next book.  

Your recent post for the YLG blog about Library Hearths was brilliant, such tremendous support for libraries and librarians. You talk about imagining pinpointing for your characters “who planted the seeds that make them grow into who they will become”, can you share any of your own influences?

Here are just three of my writer-potential-seed-planters….there are many!

I’ll start at home… with my dad who I believe taught me what a storytelling voice was all about. My little memory in ‘The Book of Hopes,’ envisioned by the wonderful Katherine Rundell during Lockdown, is dedicated to him. Jane Ray gifted this beautiful illustration to accompany my little vignette but readers of my work will have spied dad’s brave, adventurous, caring and good humoured spirit before in Granddad Bimal and in the man in the hat in my co-theatre adaptation of Shaun Tan’s sublime graphic novel ‘The Arrival’. 

Dad by Jane Ray

I had an English and Drama teacher who also acted as librarian who always told me I should be a writer and when I wrote ‘Artichoke Hearts’ and returned to my school Mrs Smith, then quite elderly, queued up for a signed copy. ‘You made me wait but told you so!’ she said! In truth this teacher was also an inspiration to Pat Print – the writing tutor in that story and she knew it!

Elyse Dodgson (whom I nominated a Blue Plaque for above) who took a punt on me… and even though I had little experience employed me as community theatre worker for The Royal Court Young People’s Theatre as my first job as a student straight out of university.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I’m reading a lot of new writing manuscripts for ‘The First Chapter Awards’ for the Scottish Book Trust at the moment so as contrast I’m dipping in and out of David Almond’s short stories ‘Counting Stars’ (2016 Hodder Children’s Books). For me voice is such an important aspect of being a writer and I love Almond’s storytelling voice. In these stories about David’s childhood in Tyneside I find so much connection, joy and awe at the natural world. I’m loving them because I have been exploring the universal in the global in my own work and I feel a deep connection to this idea especially now when so many people may feel isolated – These stories are a wonderful reminder that in the drift of a cloud or a river’s flow we are so deeply interconnected and I hear in them a heartening song to the power of children’s imaginations. I would recommend it to anyone who is or who has ever been a child!

What are you working on next?

I’ve been putting the finishing touches to my World Book Day story for next year ‘The River Whale’ illustrated by the wonderful Poonam Mistry in which readers will meet Immy again free-diving in prose and verse! I’ve loved writing it and discovering what a year of having access to fulfilling her dreams has brought her and the world!

On another track I’m working on an illustrated YA story (title not quite set yet!) that I began writing in 2008. It will be published in late 2020 by Stripes. In it my older teen characters are walking a high stakes tight rope between myth, dream and reality.

Thank you so much for your wonderful answers Sita! WHEN SECRETS SET SAIL is out now!

Three Comic Books from Street Noise Books

If I am being honest, each of these titles deserves their own post as they are all so different and beautiful and compelling. They also may never get written if I wait to do each one individually so with apologies to Street Noise Books who published them I am grouping them all together.

Street Noise Books, if you have never encountered them is a new kid on the publishing block, an independent publishing house specializing in graphic memoir and illustrated nonfiction for young adults.

First up is Crash Course by Woodrow Phoenix, the tag line caught my attention: If you want to get away with murder buy a car

I am a fairly reluctant driver at the best of times, this is not the best way to be in America, the land of the highway and byway where the distance between places that are considered local is often a barrier to walking there (and don’t get me started on the lack of sidewalks in many areas) this book did nothing to make me feel better about driving, it also heightened my nervousness at walking on the side of the road but on the plus side it also made me focus on being more aware of where I was as a driver ,passenger and pedestrian. As the author writes in the afterward:

I wrote this book to make you mad. the inadequate laws, the cash reports, the road raging, distracted, and hit-and-run drivers; the data is all appalling.

This book is a meticulously written and illustrated work about how easy it is to be killed while using the road, and not just by careless drivers in their vehicles. The sources used in the creation of this work are all listed and I have read through them several times since finishing this book.

Honestly Crash Course stressed me out and makes me feel anxious just by looking at it, but that is the point we are often not aware about how much we have sacrificed to keep our vehicles moving and how easy it is to become another statistic.

Read this book and you will never look at roads in the same way again. It may even save your life, or the lives of others!

Shame Pudding a Graphic Memoir by Danny Noble is a resonant tale of growing up surrounded by a weird and wonderful family, centered around the narrator’s beloved grandmothers.

Reading this book made me well up with tears – it made me think of my family and miss them (they are mostly in South Africa and I don’t get to see them often). Shame Pudding is a warm, beautiful memoir of growing up anxious, insecure and feeling like an outsider but being rescued by your family without even realizing it.

I hare Read Shame Pudding from cover to cover three times and opened it up at random several times just to enjoy the weirdness and beauty of the storytelling that is infused on each page. It also brought back memories of my protest activist days in London, it is funny how some images can just bring up thoughts of things that you have not consciously remembered in years!

Come Home, Indio is written and illustrated by Jim Terry.

I did not realize it but I have been a fan of his work since at least 2013, when I read The Crow: Skinning the Wolves, written by James O’Barr (it was the first Crow related graphic novel I had read since I discovered the original one in the early 1990’s). His art style is phenomenal and one that is well-suited to a black & white medium.

This is a beautiful, heart-breaking and awe-inspiring story that gives an intimate view of growing up an outsider in two communities and finding the will to survive a self-destructive spiral into drink and drug abuse.

Come Home, Indio is a wonderful reintroduction to an artist whose work I love and is my graphic novel pick for book of the year!

Timelines from Black History

Erased. Ignored. Hidden. Lost. Underappreciated. No longer. Delve into the unique, inspiring, and world-changing history of Black people.

From Frederick Douglass to Oprah Winfrey, and the achievements of ancient African kingdoms to those of the US Civil Rights Movement, Timelines From Black History: Leaders, Legends, Legacies takes kids on an exceptional journey from prehistory to modern times.

This DK children’s book boasts more than 30 visual timelines, which explore the biographies of the famous and the not-so-famous – from royalty to activists, and writers to scientists, and much, much more. Stunning thematic timelines also explain the development of Black history – from the experiences of black people in the US, to the story of postcolonial Africa.

Did you know that the richest person ever to have lived was a West African? Or that the technology that made the lightbulb possible was developed by African American inventor, and not Thomas Edison? How about the fact that Ethiopia was the only African country to avoid colonization, thanks to the leadership of a brave queen?

Stacked with facts and visually vibrant, Timelines From Black History: Leaders, Legacies, Legends is an unforgettable and accessible hive of information on the people and the issues that have shaped Black history.

DK Books

This year, Mireille Harper was a contributor to the DK Book TIMELINES OF EVERYONE and was sole writer for this collection of TIMELINES FROM BLACK HISTORY. It includes timelines of famous and not-so-famous, historical and present day influential and important people across a range of fields and from all over the globe. In usual DK fashion, it is brilliantly laid out to be visually appealing as well as containing tonnes of interesting information, it is definitely worth having in your libray!

I was given the opportunity to ask Mireille a few questions:

After writing contributions to the ‘Timelines of Everyone’, did ‘Timelines From Black History’ on your own feel daunting
or liberating?

To me, it wasn’t particularly daunting but I knew there was an element of responsibility and I felt I had to really do this book justice, so I was very careful and took my time throughout the process. I think the daunting bit was actually sending the book out into the world! I found writing the contributions empowering – finding out about the lives and histories of those who came before us who changed the world for the better was an experience I feel fortunate to have had.

How did you decide on the timelines to feature?
The process was collaborative in that both DK and I took spreads from previous titles (including content I’d created for Timelines of Everyone) that we though had the most resonance, and the figures that we felt should be celebrated most. I also had the opportunity to share some of my favourite figures for the gallery spread and foreword which was great.

If you could choose one from the book to write more on, which would it be?
I would love to write about Nanny of the Maroons. Nanny, or Queen Nanny as she’s often known, was a leader of the Windward Maroons, a community of formerly enslaved Africans in Jamaica, who fought off the British forces. I talk about Nanny literally every week, just because I think she’s such a hero and she has not received the recognition she deserves. In an ideal world, there’d be international films, books, statues and more dedicated to the legacy of Nanny.

Do you talk to young people about writing?
I talk to lots of young people about writing! I currently mentor three young people who want to work in the creative industries or publishing and I have a network of people within the publishing industry who work alongside me to help young people develop their writing. I’ve been lucky that with the publication of Timelines from Black History, I’ve had many more opportunities to speak to young people.

Do you prefer writing for children or adults?
I like both! Before working on Timelines of Everyone and Timelines from Black History, I had written over 200 articles aimed at adults on everything from travel and lifestyle to arts and culture. Whoever I’m writing for, I just like to know I’m writing about something that I’m passionate about and that matters.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?
I am reading an incredible book called This Book Will Make You Kinder by Henry James Garrett. It’s an incredible book on empathy, kindness and how we can become more empathetic, not only to ourselves and one another, but also the world around us.

Mireille Harper

Thanks so much to Mireille for taking the time to answer some questions, and to DK Books for sending me a review copy of TIMELINES FROM BLACK HISTORY – OUT NOW!

The Story of the Windrush

The story before the scandal. A book to celebrate the inspiring legacy of the Windrush pioneers.

In June 1948, hundreds of Caribbean men, women and children arrived in London on a ship called the HMT Empire Windrush. Although there were already Black people living in Britain at the time, this event marks the beginning of modern Black Britain. Combining historical fact with voices from the Windrush Generation, this book sensitively tells the inspiring story of the Windrush Generation pioneers for younger readers

Scholastic
THE STORY OF THE WINDRUSH

I have had a copy of this book on the shelves of my school library for some time now having bought the self-published version, but this month Scholastic are republishing it with some small changes, and have excitingly commissioned more from the author, Kandace Chimbiri! I asked her some questions to celebrate:

Your previous books for children, through Golden Destiny, were about more distant periods of history, what prompted you to write about the Windrush generation?
Although my previous books for children focused on ancient African history and this one is modern Black British history, they are all motivated by the same desire. I want to share those missing stories and neglected narratives. The arrival of the Empire Windrush in 1948 is such an important event in modern British history and yet when I looked for a nice book for children about it, I couldn’t find one! I had heard Sam King speak about his life at a few events and I was really inspired by him. I also knew something of my parents’ experiences of coming to Britain in the 1960s. I just felt that children growing up today in Britain (and in the Caribbean too) should be able to read about the Windrush generation pioneers. 

How did you begin your research, and choose which of the hundreds of voices from the ship to highlight?
I was fortunate to have a DVD called Windrush Pioneers so I sat down and listened to it again for the first time in about 10 years. It had interesting interviews with Sam King, Allan Wilmot, Peter Dielhenn and several others. I read Allan Wilmott’s biography (I had also heard Allan Wilmott speak a couple of times at events). I asked my parents a few questions, things that I had never asked them before! I just chose the voices which appealed to me.  There was no real thought to it! I loved how Alford Gardner described his journey with people from other Caribbean islands meeting each other.

Have you done much work with children around the book? Since lockdown have you done any virtual events?
I have done a few virtual events during lockdown. For more than ten years I have been giving talks and museum tours around Black history. I’m used to speaking face to face and enjoying in person interaction. I never thought I would get used to virtual doing virtual events but now I love it! I do a 30-min ‘Meet the Author’ session for children aged 8 to 12. I give a short overview about the book, why and how I wrote it, why it’s important followed by time for the children to ask questions.

Did Scholastic suggest any changes to the book before republishing it? How different is it working on a new book with a big publisher?
Scholastic have been brilliant and I am really happy with the way they’ve improved the book.  It’s a completely different experience working with a big publisher and so far I am loving it. As you know I originally self published The Story of the Windrush. That’s hard because you have to make all the decisions yourself about artists, layout, style, everything! And, I’m really pleased with the new edition of the book. Scholastic have kept the same overall look but there are better captions on the illustrations (both the drawings and the photos). They have also tidied up some of the wording to make it even clearer for readers. And I am especially happy with the tweaks to the map of the British Empire. That’s important for educators.

Have you thought about writing historical fiction?
Not really. I just don’t think I’d be very good at writing historical fiction. I’d love the research side of it but I don’t think I’m that good at making up interesting characters and compelling plots. There are lots of children that love factual books and I’m quite happy writing for them.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?
A Member of the RAF of Indeterminate Race. It’s about Cy Grant’s experience during the Second World War when he was shot down over Nazi Germany. He was from Guyana (or British Guiana as it was called then). It’s interesting but also educational.

What can we expect from you next?
My next book is going to be a sort of a prequel to The Story of the Windrush. I’m working on it now and it’s slowly starting to take shape. I still have more research to do though so it could all change of course….and probably will!

Huge thanks to Kandace for answering my questions!

THE STORY OF THE WINDRUSH is published in the UK on 15th October 2020 by Scholastic

The Runaway TARDIS

Cue music:

The Doctor Who theme tune give me goosebumps every time I hear it! Segun Akinola‘s take on it is just perfect, he kept everything that was classic and cool about it and added a new twist that improved it immeasurably!

Unable to make friends at her new school, Lizzie packs a bag and runs away. After accidentally stowing away in the TARDIS, she meets the Doctor, a mysterious woman who claims to be a time-traveling space alien. When the TARDIS malfunctions, Lizzie and the Doctor are sent catapulting through time and space, visiting the pyramids, the dinosaurs, an alien planet, and more. Along the way, Lizzie learns that making new friends isn’t so hard after all . . . but will she ever be able to get back home?

Doctor Who The Runaway TARDIS is Quirk Books latest POP Classics adaptation and their first featuring the BBC’s Doctor as played by Jodie Whittaker.

It is no secret that I love Doctor Who, which is a bit weird as unlike many fans I did not grow up watching it from behind the sofa, I did not grow up watching it at all. I discovered the novelizations by Terrance Dicks at a second-hand booksale. These were my introduction to the universe of The Doctor and when the show regenerated in 2005 I was one of the many people rejoicing and have watched it ever since.

If I had to choose just one word to describe The Runaway TARDIS, that word would be:

Honestly it is! It is one of the best adaptations of the show that I have ever seen! They have taken everything that is good and wonderful from the show and turned it into a picture book that is perfect for everyone from hardcore Whovians to folk that may have never encountered the Doctor before they happily decided to pick up this book.

If you or someone you know has moved and is missing their friends or has a feeling a sense of loneliness and isolation (honestly in this time of Covid-19 I think that describes just about everyone) then this book is the perfect choice!

“Everyone gets lonely sometimes'” said the Doctor. “But I make new friends wherever I go, and I never forget the old ones.”

Kim Smith’s art style is perfect in capturing the sense of awe and wonder on the face of the Doctor’s latest companion as they shoot through time and space in an out-of-control TARDIS.

There are also loads of Easter eggs hidden in the book to keep people poring over the book for ages, honestly it is such a delightful read I think that everyone should buy a copy (or borrow it from their local library).

Doctor Who: the Runaway TARDIS is based on the Doctor Who series by Chris Chibnall; it is illustrated by Kim Smith and published by Quirk Books. It is available from all good bookshops and your local library now!

Competition time:

I also have a copy to give away, if you (yes you) would like to win yourself (or someone you love) a copy of The Runaway TARDIS then just comment on this post with your best (or worst) Doctor Who joke e.g.:

I was at a party full of World Heath Organization medics over the weekend.

I thought I was going to a Doctor Who convention.

If you don’t know a Doctor Who joke then any good joke will do!

(this competition is open internationally)

Skunk and Badger

No one wants a skunk.
 
They are unwelcome on front stoops. They should not linger in Important Rock Rooms. Skunks should never, ever be allowed to move in. But Skunk is Badger’s new roommate, and there is nothing Badger can do about it.
 
When Skunk plows into Badger’s life, everything Badger knows is upended. Tails are flipped. The wrong animal is sprayed. And why-oh-why are there so many chickens?

Skunk and Badger is a wonderful take by two titans of the children’s book world: Amy Timberlake wielded the words and Jon Klassen created the illustrations. I will not lie, I am a fan of both, but Jon Klassen is one of my all-time top five artists and when I was offered a chance at an early copy I leapt at it!

I was not disappointed! This is a gentle, hilarious tale of a budding friendship, misadventure, chickens and underscored by the virtues of tolerance and understanding,

Skunk and Badger is timeless! Although aimed at a young audience this tale will find fans in readers of all ages.

Written by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen and published by Algonquin Young Readers. It is out on September 15 – I urge you to pick up a copy (or borrow a copy from your local library and then pick up your own copy to keep, read and reread).

Stupid Black Girl: Essays from an American African by Aisha Redux

When I first met you, I thought you were just a Stupid Black Girl.

Everyone has a story inside them – about their life and experiences, everyone’s story is different. For example I am a first generation immigrant in America, I came to the USA from South Africa via the UK. I am an invisible minority as I am white even though my identify is African. Aisha is a first generation American with West African parents, there are some intersections (immigrant family, African background) but even more differences. To stay safer in America all I have to do is not open my mouth and nobody passing me on the street will know that I am not from here, Aisha on the other hand was born here – she is more American than I will ever be, heck, she can even run for president of the USA – something I can never do but her skin color automatically puts her in more danger than I will ever face here.

But this post is not about me, it is about this wonderful, brutally honest (at times painful) collection of personal essays about her life, beliefs and experiences as a Muslim American African.

Stupid Black Girl is a brilliant book to pick up if you are looking to learn about experiences outside your own, even if you have begun immersing yourself in African/African-American/Minority experiences in the USA then this book needs to be on your reading list!

In reading this book you will learn about the experiences of others, and, at the same time you may learn a bit more about yourself…

Highly recommended! If I gave out star ratings this book would get five of them!

Stupid Black Girl is written by Aisha Redux, illustrated by Brianna McCarthy and published by Street Noise Books. It is available now!

The National Shelf Service

CILIP started the National Shelf Service on Monday 6th April, a daily recommendation of a book available to borrow electronically through local libraries, live at 11am. Hopefully you’ve been watching these great videos from YLG colleagues, but if you haven’t seen any yet then why not start with mine! I’m the only one (so far) that has talked about a book that isn’t aimed at teenagers or young adults, not really living up to the TeenLibrarian name, but as I say: this book can be read and loved by anyone of any age…

The illustrations on the banners are by Fiona Lumbers, from the book Luna Loves Library Day written by Joseph Coelho

Always Here for You by Miriam Halahmy

14-year-old Holly is lonely. Holly’s parents are never around after Gran’s Crisis and best friend Amy has moved across the Atlantic to Canada, loved-up with her new boyfriend, Gabe. Holly has no-one to hang out with at school apart from moody Ellen and misfit Tim – Madison and the bezzies barely notice her.

Home alone in Brighton with no-one to talk to, Holly is at rock bottom. That is, until she finds Jay. Caring, funny and with so much in common, Jay is the perfect guy. They chat online, but Holly knows to be careful, she s heard the horror stories. As they grow closer and closer, chatting with Jay is all that makes Holly happy. Mum and Dad s rows get more intense and Amy’s radio silence continues; the only one who understands is Jay. As Holly lets her guard down, is Jay all he seems? Is Holly in too deep? And is it too late? 

Miriam Halahmy constantly takes my breath away! One of her strengths as an author is that she creates believable characters that the reader will sympathize with and care about and then puts them in realistic, troubling situations and because we have become invested in these fictional characters we (at least me anyway) have to follow the story to its end.

Although aimed at a younger teen market, Always Here For You is a must read book for all ages. Miriam’s prose draws you in and keeps you focused on Holly’s story, and although, as the reader can see what is happening we are powerless to do anything except keep reading and hope that everything will work out.

As an adult who works with young people I have been through training about online grooming, I am aware of what to look out for in young at risk people and I also know how easy it can be to miss the telltale signs when you are distracted. Always Here For You works as both a teen thriller and a warning, showing how easy it can be for a socially isolated young person to get caught up and groomed, and for those who should be taking care of her to miss what is going on.

While reading Always Here For You I felt helpless but was unable to stop! Miriam had me completely hooked! At the close I felt like I had been holding my breath. The final chapter of diary excerpts was a fitting postscript to the tale and gave us an idea of what happened beyond the end.

Always Here for You is published by Zuntold Books and will be released on February 11thSafer Internet Day it will make a fitting centerpiece for a display with a focus on safer social media practices.