Category Archives: Education

Period Party

On April 8th, the Lucille H. Bluford branch of the Kansas City Public Library recently held a Period Party – a program designed for teens and tweens to come and learn about menstruation in a safe space, make crafts, and win prizes.

The craft was making pouches out of colorful duct tape to carrying menstrual products!

The Instructables website has a page on how to make duct tape pouches: https://www.instructables.com/Duct-Tape-Pouch/

You can visit the Kansas city Public Library’s Facebook page to see the reaction this program had:

Ten Ways to Build a Brilliant Brain

A fun and practical guide to making your brain brilliant, from well-being expert Nicola Morgan.

Build a brilliant brain with this fun and practical guide for young people from award-winning well-being expert Nicola Morgan. From the benefits of the right food, sleep and exercise, to how to be creative, curious and resilient, discover the incredible science and top advice to make your brain the best it can be. Packed with fascinating facts and brain boosting activities, this illustrated guide gives you the power to build your brilliant brain!

Walker Books

Ten ways your brain is different from the person’s sitting next to you

By Nicola Morgan

One of the most important things a human has to learn is that everyone else is both the same as and different from them. Our brains are wired the same as every human’s for hundreds of thousands of years but we have different psychologies and personalities, influences and experiences, different biology, and so we will not always think, feel, behave or react the same as another person in the same situations. Knowing that is the basis of empathy and of how we make our way through our world.

What are ten specific differences to be aware of as you think about the person sitting next to you?

1. Genes

Our genetic make-up makes each of us literally unique, including in the detail of our brain. We don’t know exactly what the genetic effect is in a given situation but we know it’s there and for some things more strongly than others. For example, we know that dyslexia often has some genetic link.

2. Age

Age makes a difference. Obviously, if the person sitting next to you is two, or 102, and you’re 42, their brain is not the same as yours. And there are biological stages of development that make a typical 12-year-old teenage brain different from both a typical two-year-old brain or a typical 19-year-old or 40-year-old brain. There are some things that older brains can do better than younger brains and vice versa. And we all age differently, too, depending on genes and lifestyle, amongst other things.

3. Past experiences

Everything that happens stamps its mark on our brain and changes us in ways big or small. A significant, perhaps memorable, experience can directly affect how we act later. Someone praising us or not praising us can make a difference to our confidence – we might not remember the original moment but it will leave its mark. No two people have identical experiences.

4. Neuro-divergence

The person sitting next to you might have a neuro-divergence. It could be dyslexia or dyspraxia, ADHD or colour-blindness. Whatever it is, it makes their brain different from yours – even if you also have the same neuro-divergence. No two are really the same even if they have the same name!

5. How time has been spent

The brain of a person who has spent a lot of time playing the violin is physically different from the brain of someone who spent the same amount of time reading books. What we spend time on changes our brain.

6. Introversion/extroversion

Introversion/extroversion is widely regarded as a largely fixed personality trait. It’s a fascinating topic and when I give INSET talks in schools it’s usually the bit that teachers are most intrigued about as it impacts learning so much. It’s not about shyness but a biological level of sensitivity to stimuli, especially when people are the stimuli. Understanding the introverted nature of the people around you will really give you insight into their experience of the world.

7. Type A/B

Another personality aspect is to do with reaction to goals, ambition, success. Type A people are fiercely competitive and beat themselves up when they don’t come top; Type Bs are more laidback and are better at switching off. Their brains behave differently.

8. Support network and friendships

Our mental strength is very much affected and changed by support from the people around us. Do we have people who make us feel confident, people we can go to with a problem or doubt, who we can share success and excitement with? Each friend and connection is part of us and changes us – and therefore our brain.

9. Optimism

Optimism is not a fixed personality trait but more a mindset or learned behaviour. But how optimistic someone is (at the moment) will profoundly affect how they behave or react and whether they go for opportunities. And optimistic or pessimistic thoughts are formed in and by our brains. You can train your brain to think and behave more optimistically and in doing so change your neural pathways. Check out my ‘Pathways exercise’ on my website – or ask me to speak to your staff about building positive neural pathways.

10. Luck

There’s so much we can each control in our lives – and that’s what I focus on, teaching people of all ages that their brains can be ‘in their hands’. But there’s also a lot we can’t control. We should spend very little time thinking about that but it’s worth recognising that a lot that makes our brains how they are is down to luck. Knowing that helps us not be judgmental.

I don’t know who’s sitting next to you. I don’t know you. But I know that your two brains are different in fascinating ways. You could, if you wished and if it is appropriate, start to talk to them and get to know them. Then you’ll know a bit more about what is in their brains – you’ll find similarities and differences. You still won’t know exactly what is going on in their brain, but the endless quest to get closer and closer to the mind of another person is what connects us. It’s pretty much the whole meaning of life – not to feel alone but to be at peace with the brain inside our own head as well as the ones nearby.

Nicola Morgan, aka The Teenage Brain Woman, is an award-winning author and speaker on many areas of well-being and learning. Her best-selling examination of the teenage brain, Blame My Brain, was shortlisted for the Aventis Prize; the prize-winning Teenage Guide to Stress, along with The Teenage Guide to Friends, Positively Teenage, Life Online, Body Brilliant, The Awesome Power of Sleep and Be Resilient, underline Nicola’s unparalleled expertise. In 2018, she was awarded the SLA’s prestigious award for Outstanding Contribution to Information Books. She used to be a teenage novelist and one day will be again. Her new book is TEN WAYS TO BUILD A BRILLIANT BRAIN, published by Walker Books. www.nicolamorgan.com

Silence is Not an Option

Silence is Not an Option is the first book by Stuart Lawrence – the younger brother of Stephen Lawrence who tragically died in an unprovoked attack on 22 April 1993. The book is interspersed with reflections on his brother Stephen’s life and murder as well as the tools that have helped him live positively and kept him moving forwards when times have been tough. An inspiring read directed at younger readers (aged 10 +) Stuart’s aim is to use his
own experience to help young people – to help all people – find their own voice, stand up for change, and contribute towards creating a more positive society.
Stuart is determined to ensure that children today understand the impact of their actions against others and the importance of inclusion through teaching tolerance and celebrating difference. He has a background in education – working as a teacher for over 15 years – and is now a motivational speaker and youth engagement specialist. Stuart is also a mentor for several young people in the South London area.
Since his brother’s death, Stuart and his family have had a huge impact on the change of attitude towards racism within British society. Their story is still as impactful and important today.

Scholastic

This is a great book to read slowly. It gives the reader practical activities in each chapter, to really think about themselves and how they can impact those around them, before moving onto the next chapter. It is for independent reading and reflection, but could also prompt some brilliant discussions between young people if shared with a group. Chapters range from the influence of role models (Stuart discusses meeting Nelson Mandela) to championing yourself and others. Stuart is incredibly busy, but I just asked him to quickly recommend some books for teenagers to help them understand their place in the world and how to contribute positively:

– Black and British by David Olusoga (I’ve read the abridged “short history” version for younger readers and it is brilliantly fascinating)

– This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany  Jewell (another full of practical advice)

– Everyone Versus Racism by Patrick Hutchinson

– No Win Race: A Story of Belonging, Britishness and Sport by Derek A Bardowell

Scholastic also allowed me to share this excerpt from chapter 3: YOU ARE IN CONTROL:

SELF-CONTROL

After losing my brother Stephen, I really had to learn self-control. Suddenly, my family and I were in the newspapers and on the TV. A lot of the time, the public were being misinformed about our story. I was so angry that my brother was being portrayed as a gang member and a drug dealer, when he was an A-level student aspiring to become an architect.

However, I had to control myself, because lashing out would only affect my family and my brother’s case negatively. It didn’t mean I didn’t speak out, but I had to exercise self-control in the way I handled the situation. I had to be calm and composed, even though I didn’t feel like it.

What is Self-control? Having self-control means being able to manage your decisions, emotions and behaviours so that you can achieve your goals. This skill is what separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom!

Self-control is rooted in the front part of our brains, in an area called the prefrontal cortex. This is the planning, problem-solving and decision-making centre of the brain. Did you know that this part of the brain is much larger in humans than it is in other mammals? This area of our brain acts differently at different stages of our lives. For example, teenagers are more likely to act on impulse or to misunderstand their emotions than older people. As much as you might not want to believe us adults and feel like you are an exception to the rule, these are scientific facts!

You can only control yourself. For example, let’s say you are trying out to become the captain of the school netball team and, unfortunately, you aren’t picked for the role. Instead of sulking, getting angry or upset, you show good sportsmanship and shake the hand of your competitor. In doing this, you use your self-control. You are unable to control the situation but you are able to control your reaction and that is what is important. Don’t forget, it’s always useful to get feedback so that you can improve and win next time.

About the author: Stuart Lawrence is the younger brother of Stephen Lawrence, the young man who, on 22 April 1993, at the age of just 18, was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack. Stuart is an educator and motivational speaker, dedicated to helping to transform the life chances of young people.

Stephen Lawrence Day is held on 22 April each year to commemorate Stephen’s life.
Follow the journey: #SilenceIsNotAnOption Insta @hon_stuartlawrence Twitter @sal2nd

SILENCE IS NOT AN OPTION is published today by Scholastic.

With thanks for sending me a review copy

First Story Young Writers virtual festival

The Young Writers festival, the highlight of the First Story Young Writers programme, kicks off on 24 March 2021. This festival provides a unique opportunity for hundreds of young people from less advantaged backgrounds to engage with a literature festival , often for the first time. Pre-pandemic, staged annually (at Cambridge University), the festival is an inspiring day-long event featuring acclaimed speakers, book signings, readings and writing workshopsFor 2021, the festival will become predominantly a free and open access festival online, in a pandemic-necessitated change. From hundreds of students previously attending the festival in Cambridge, this move enables thousands of young writers and readers to access the festival from across the UK and beyond.“We are amazed how many schools have welcomed the festival and registered this year; a day of stimulating creative activity is clearly very welcome at the end of a long challenging term’” said Antonia Byatt, CEO First Story.

First Story partner schools will all take part in live writing workshops with First Story Writers, streamed into their classrooms.

The festival events open to the public are as follows:

24 March Angie Thomas  – access will be open until 23 April 2021 

24  March Young Writers Showcase, chaired by Dean Atta

From 24 March, all Craft and Technique Resource short events will also be available to watch at any time.

All events can be accessed via the festival site here: https://firststory.org.uk/festival/

Sign up early as a school to the Angie Thomas event and receive free copies of THE HATE YOU GIVE:  https://firststory.org.uk/festival/#angie

A limited number of workshops, and a CPD event are for First Story members only. 

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!

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

Dream Team

Meet the Dream Team! They turn nightmares into incredible adventures in this fast-paced first book in the series written and illustrated by the award-winning Tom Percival.
Erika’s had a bad day and struggles with her emotions, especially her temper. But going to sleep upset means bad dreams. She finds herself stranded in the Dreamscape along with a mob of hungry Heebie Jeebies – and to make matters worse, she’s being hunted by a terrifying Angermare! Only the Dream Team can help save Erika now and help her overcome her worries and get home, or will she be trapped forever?Attack of the Heebie Jeebies is the launch title in this fun and engaging two-colour illustrated series, exploring anxiety in in children through action and adventure. With echoes of Dreamworks’s Inside Out and The Incredibles Dream Team is a great way to introduce children to managing their anger, especially if they have a bad case of the heebie-jeebies!

Attack of the Heebie Jeebies

The second book in the fun and adventure-packed Dream Team series, Erika returns to tackle some more nightmares in the dreamscape, in this case the jitters!
Erika’s friend Kris is HILARIOUS. She thinks he should perform in their
school’s talent show, but he’s far too nervous.
And when Erika gets a call from the Dream Team to help on a mission, she meets another girl who is struggling with confidence. Chanda’s dream is being attacked by the jitters and nothing seems to be going right.
Try as they might, the team can’t get control of her dream – until Erika realizes that there is a connection between Chanda and Kris. Can she help Chanda to find some confidence before the jitters take over completely?
The perfect book for children to learn how to overcome anxiety and nervousness in a digestible and entertaining way.

A Case of the Jitters

Tom Percival’s Big Bright Feelings picturebooks for Bloomsbury are brilliant introductions to emotions for younger children, and in his new series for Macmillan Children’s he tackles the big subject of anxiety and related emotions (starting the series with with bad tempers and self confidence) but in short, highly illustrated chapter books for a middle grade audience (age 5+). Some dark stuff happens in bad dreams (just wait until you meet the Bone Cobble in A Case of the Jitters!) but I just love the humour in these books that balances it out nicely. There is properly witty banter between the characters, pitched perfectly for the younger reader but also funny to an older child (and any grownups reading with them), and the characters are great fun. His dreamscapes are really inventive but I also like that Erika’s real-world relationships are developed. I think these books would be great to read with a child to see what conversations they spark around feelings and worries, but they are also just great fun reads…and make sure you read the acknowledgements, heehee!

TEACHERS/SCHOOL LIBRARIANS: They would be wonderful to read with a class, and here are some lesson plans (with links to audio of the first two chapters) to whet your appetite!

Thank you to Macmillan Kids for inviting me to be part of the tour, and sending review copies of these two wonderful titles! I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens next in the series.

Professional Development Links for Library-folk

WebJunction Course Catalog

Library-specific courses and webinar recordings available for free to all library workers and volunteers. Through the generous support of OCLC and many state library agencies across the US, WebJunction provides timely and relevant learning content for you to access anytime, from anywhere.

All new learners need to create an account. Select “Log in” at the top right of this page, and then “Create new account.” Once you’ve created your new account, explore the catalog of library-focused self-paced courses and webinars. Certificates of completion will be available to you after you have completed any course or webinar.
https://learn.webjunction.org/

Young Adult & Teen specific training:  
https://learn.webjunction.org/course/index.php?categoryid=25

School Library Journal Offers Temporary Free Access to Digital Content

https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=school-library-journal-offers-free-full-access-to-content-digitized-magazines-coronavirus-slj

Raising the Bar
Integrating Early Childhood Education into Librarian Professional Development

a four-part training series developed by the New York Public Library, in collaboration with CUNY’s Professional Development Institute and funded by the Institution of Museum and Library Services.
https://nypl.teachable.com/

Free Library Webconference: 

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdSZu598n6w5ikj00_3eUxuK5n06iiqb7O47yN43kzHGEmUrw/viewform

Submit a piece to a Library ‘Zine

Historical Fiction Webinar

https://www.ebscohost.com/novelist-the-latest/blog-article/webinar-crash-course-in-historical-fiction

Middle Grade Magic Virtual Conference

https://vshow.on24.com/vshow/middlegrade2020/registration/16561

Teaching Social Justice: Navigating the Deep Waters of Equity in Early Childhood Programs

https://www.earlychildhoodwebinars.com/webinars/teaching-social-justice-navigating-the-deep-waters-of-equity-in-early-childhood-programs/

NoveList Webinars

https://www.ebscohost.com/novelist-the-latest/by_tag/tag/Webinars



2020 Election Display Resources

With the US elections looming in the distance it is 271 days away (why yes I am counting down). I have set up a display in the teen area of my library that I want to share.

The Get in the Game and Vote poster comes from the ALA: https://www.alastore.ala.org/content/vote-poster

I put together the I Want You to register to vote poster using the image by James Montgomery Flagg from the US Army recruiting posters from the Great War. The poster can be downloaded by clicking on the image below:

The register to vote strips are Kansas specific so if you work in a library in Kansas you can download it here (you can also use it as inspiration for something similar in whichever state you are in):

Download (PDF, 318KB)

I have been writing the definitions of various political terms used in election cycles, using simple English. There are several websites that have lists of political jargon and their definitions that can be utilized. Some of the more useful ones are below:

https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/vocabulary-political-words/

https://votesmart.org/education/vocabulary

doleinstitute.org/get-involved/civic-engagement-tools/political-glossary/

https://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-37385625

I have collated a number of the books that have appeared on the display in a list that can be accessed here