Category Archives: Reflecting Realities

A Parent’s Guide to Black Lives Matter

Yoopies UK the childcare platform, has put together a family-friendly resource guide for parents about the Black Lives Matter movement from a British perspective; with contributions from both white and BAME writers.

This guide shares resources (films, podcasts, books etc), advice, and tips to ensure that children are aware of racial inequality, racial hierarchies, and white privilege present in modern-day society, as well as share some knowledge to help combat racism today.

The guide can be downloaded here:

https://yoopies.co.uk/c/press-releases/blacklivesmatter

The Police and Public Libraries

I have seen police officers in libraries for as long as I have been a library worker, they come in as patrons, they have been called in if people started endangering the lives of patrons and staff, occasionally an officer will come in and do a walk-through the library, more recently I have witnessed official library events featuring police officers including Youth Services organized “Story-time with a Police Officer” which is a local PO will come in uniform and read some stories at a library story-time event and a Civic Engagement series called “Coffee with a Cop” which is basically just that – a Police Officer sitting drinking coffee and chatting to local library patrons.

I am aware that seeing the police as being helpful and there to help is very much a White viewpoint; other population groups, Black, Asian and others have differing viewpoints and opinions about them.

I have been concerned about story-times being lead by police officers for ages now but the coronavirus closures put those thoughts on the back burner, they are now forefront in my mind now in the wake of the violence against protesters that has been occurring on a daily basis since people began standing up in reaction to the murder of George Floyd. This ongoing violence has been an eye-opener to many people that live in denial of the violence police often perpetrate against minority groups.

Can libraries afford to keep hosting police-centered events and at the same time claim to be welcoming to everyone?

It is often vulnerable groups and individuals that have the most need of the services that libraries provide and they are the most at risk of being traumatized by coming face to face with uniformed police officers at library sanctioned events. These encounters will in all likelihood re-traumatize them again and they are already at the receiving end of police violence; this will, in all likelihood keep them from returning for fear of encountering the police again.

The fig leaf argument that libraries are neutral spaces gets more threadbare every day. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor

Neutrality does not mean having no opinion, it means being open to other opinions. I am of the opinion that it is past time for libraries to look at who we partner with and discuss how we can move forward with offering a truly inclusive and welcoming service.

Before we allow the police in for photo-opportunity events, we must demand real and substantive change in the way they behave towards all groups in the communities they ostensibly serve.

In demanding that of them we must, at the same time interrogate our own biases and how we behave towards others as well as challenging ourselves and those around us to actively fight racist thought and activities that pervade our daily lives.

BAME Authors: Middle Grade

Ade Adepitan

https://www.johnnoel.com

@AdeAdepitan

John Agard

https://literature.britishcouncil.org/writer/john-agard

Shweta Aggarwal

http://devandollie.com

@devandollie

Hamza Arshad

https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/134114/humza-arshad.html

@HamzaProduction

Atinuke

http://atinuke-author.weebly.com

http://www.walker.co.uk/contributors/Atinuke-12281.aspx

Jasbinder Bilan

@jasinbath

Malorie Blackman

https://www.malorieblackman.co.uk

@malorieblackman

Sita Brahmachari

http://www.sitabrahmachari.com

@SitaBrahmachari

Aisha Bushby

https://www.egmont.co.uk/blog/egmont-pockets-debit-from-rising-star-aisha-bushby/

@aishabushby

Sarwat Chadda

@sarwatchadda

Maisie Chan

https://www.maisiechan.com/

@MaisieWrites

Ellie Daines

http://www.elliedaines.com

@chirpywriter

Narinder Dhami

https://www.narinderdhami.com/

@narinderd

Nizrana Farook

facebook.com/nizrite

@nizrite

Jamila Gavin

http://www.jamilagavin.co.uk

Rohan Gavin

http://rohangavin.com

Kereen Getten

https://www.instagram.com/kezywrites/

@KereenGetten

Lorraine Gregory

https://www.lorrainegregoryauthor.co.uk/

@authorontheedge

Polly Ho-Yen

https://pollyhoyen.com

@bookhorse

Sharna Jackson

https://www.sharnajackson.com/

@sharnajackson

Catherine Johnson

http://www.catherinejohnson.co.uk

@catwrote

Peter Kalu

http://www.peterkalu.com

@peterkalu

Sangu Mandanna

https://sangumandanna.com

@sangumandanna

E.L. Norry

https://www.scholastic.co.uk/blog/Q-and-A-with-ELNorry-38735

@ilovetolurk

Leila Rasheed

https://leilarasheeddotcom.wordpress.com

@LeilaR

Onjali Q. Rauf

@onjalirauf

Jasmine Richards

https://www.jasminerichards.com

SF Said

http://www.sfsaid.com

@whatSFSaid

Annabelle Sami

https://www.andlyn.co.uk/annabelle-sami

@annabellesami

Malaika Rose Stanley

http://www.malaikarosestanley.com

BAME Authors: Young Adult/Teen

Sufiya Ahmed

https://mbalit.co.uk/client/sufiya-ahmed/

@sufiyaahmed

Dean Atta

https://sites.google.com/site/deanatta/

@DeanAtta

Yaba Badoe

https://www.facebook.com/Yaba-Badoe-118504861506100

@yaba-badoe

Rebecca Barrow

http://www.rebecca-barrow.com

@RebeccaKBarrow

Mary Florence Bello

https://bellapoetry.wordpress.com

@MissBelloTweets

Malorie Blackman

https://www.malorieblackman.co.uk

@malorieblackman

Akemi Dawn Bowman

http://www.akemidawnbowman.com/

@akemidawn

Sita Brahmachari

http://www.sitabrahmachari.com

@SitaBrahmachari

Tanya Byrne

http://tanyabyrne.com

@tanyabyrne

Maisie Chan

@MaisieWrites

https://www.maisiechan.com/

Narinder Dhami

https://www.narinderdhami.com/

@narinderd

Jamila Gavin

http://www.jamilagavin.co.uk

Candy Gourlay

https://www.candygourlay.com

@candygourlay

Sam Hepburn (see Sam Osman)

Danielle Jawando

@DanielleJawando

Catherine Johnson

http://www.catherinejohnson.co.uk

@catwrote

Savita Kalhan

http://www.savitakalhan.com

@savitakalhan

Mariam Khan

http://www.lounge-books.com/contributors/2017/6/20/mariam-k

@helloIammariam

Peter Kalu

http://www.peterkalu.com

@peterkalu

Muhammad Khan

http://www.holroydecartey.com/muhammed-khan.html

@mkhanauthor

Patrice Lawrence

https://patricelawrence.wordpress.com

@LawrencePatrice

Ayisha Malik

 https://www.ayishamalik.com/

@Ayisha_Malik

Sangu Mandanna

https://sangumandanna.com

@sangumandanna

Manjeet Mann

https://www.manjeetmann.com/

@ManjeetMann

Irfan Master

http://irfanmaster.com

@Irfan_Master

Taran Matharu

http://authortaranmatharu.com

@TaranMatharu1

Kiran Millwood Hargrave

@Kiran_MH

Stefan Mohamed

http://stefmo.co.uk/wp/

@stefmowords

Wilf Morgan

https://sites.google.com/site/88talesv3/

@wilf007

Natasha Ngan

http://girlinthelens.com

@girlinthelens

E.L. Norry

https://www.scholastic.co.uk/blog/Q-and-A-with-ELNorry-38735

@ilovetolurk

Sam Osman

http://www.samosmanbooks.com

Anna Perera

http://www.annaperera.com

@annaperera1

Yasmin Rahman

@yasminwithane

Bali Rai

http://www.balirai.co.uk/home

@balirai

Leila Rasheed

https://leilarasheeddotcom.wordpress.com

@LeilaR

Jasmine Richards

https://www.jasminerichards.com

Na’ima B Robert

@NaimaBRobert

SF Said

http://www.sfsaid.com

@whatSFSaid

London Shah

http://www.londonshah.com

@London_Shah

Alexandra Sheppard

https://www.alexandrasheppard.com/

@alexsheppard

Nikesh Shukla

http://www.nikesh-shukla.com

@nikeshshukla

Emma Smith-Barton

@EmmaSmithBarton

Tasha Suri
https://tashasuri.com/

@tashadrinkstea

Tabitha Suzuma

http://www.tabithasuzuma.com

@TabithaSuzuma

Meera Syal

https://literature.britishcouncil.org/writer/meera-syal

@MeeraSyal

Alex Wheatle

https://www.alexwheatle.com/

@brixtonbard

Benjamin Zephaniah

https://benjaminzephaniah.com

@BZephaniah

BAME Authors: Poetry

John Agard

https://literature.britishcouncil.org/writer/john-agard

Joseph Coelho

http://www.thepoetryofjosephcoelho.com

@PoetryJoe

Peter Kalu

http://www.peterkalu.com

@peterkalu

Stefan Mohamed

http://stefmo.co.uk/wp/

@stefmowords

Grace Nichols

https://www.poetryarchive.org/poet/grace-nichols

Benjamin Zephaniah

https://benjaminzephaniah.com

@BZephaniah

BAME Authors: Children’s Books

Floella Benjamin

http://www.floellabenjamin.com/

@FloellaBenjamin

Malorie Blackman

https://www.malorieblackman.co.uk

@malorieblackman

Kandace Chimbiri

http://www.goldendestiny.co.uk/index.php

@knchimbiri

Narinder Dhami

https://www.narinderdhami.com/

@narinderd

Casey Elisha

caseyelishabooks.com

@celishabooks

Jamila Gavin

http://www.jamilagavin.co.uk

Lorraine Gregory

https://www.lorrainegregoryauthor.co.uk/

@authorontheedge

Swapna Haddow

http://swapnahaddow.co.uk

@SwapnaHaddow

Polly Ho-Yen

https://pollyhoyen.com

@bookhorse

Konnie Huq

https://www.thebookseller.com/news/konnie-huq-pen-series-piccadilly-press-747021

@Konnie_Huq

Zanim Mian

http://www.sweetapplebooks.com

@Zendibble

Rita Phillips Mitchell

http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/member/rita-phillips-mitchell

Nick Mohammed

https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/130313/nick-mohammed.html

@nickmohammed

Millie Murray

https://www.rlf.org.uk/fellowships/millie-murray/

Hiba Noor Khan

watsonlittle.com/client/hiba-noor-khan/

@HibaNoorKhan1

Richard Rai O’Neill

https://richardthestoryteller.weebly.com/

@therroneill

Serena Patel

@SerenaKPatel

Smriti Prasadam-Halls

http://www.smriti.co.uk

@SmritiPH

Bali Rai

http://www.balirai.co.uk/home

@balirai

Leila Rasheed

https://leilarasheeddotcom.wordpress.com

@LeilaR

Annabelle Sami

https://www.andlyn.co.uk/annabelle-sami

@annabellesami

Alom Shaha

http://alomshaha.com

@alomshaha

Emma Shevah

https://emmashevah.com

@emmashevah

Rashmi Sirdeshpande

https://rashmisirdeshpande.com/

@RashmiWriting

Chitra Soundar

www.chitrasoundar.com/

@csoundar

Malaika Rose Stanley

http://www.malaikarosestanley.com

Nadine Wild-Palmer


https://www.pushkinpress.com/product/the-tunnels-below/

https://twitter.com/NadineWildPalm

Ken Wilson-Max

http://www.kenwilsonmax.com

@kenwilsonmax

Benjamin Zephaniah

https://benjaminzephaniah.com

@BZephaniah

BAME: Picture Book Illustrators & Authors

Dapo Adeola

facebook.com/dapsdraws

@DapsDraws

Patrice Aggs

http://www.patriceaggs.com

@patriceaggs

Sufiya Ahmed

https://mbalit.co.uk/client/sufiya-ahmed/

@sufiyaahmed

Mehrdokht Amini

http://childrensillustrators.com/illustrator/mehrdokht1976/portfolio

Nathan Bryon

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/606265/rocket-says-look-up-by-nathan-bryon-illustrated-by-dapo-adeola/9781984894427/

@NathanBryon

Joseph Coelho

http://www.thepoetryofjosephcoelho.com

@PoetryJoe

Casey Elisha

caseyelishabooks.com

@celishabooks

Candy Gourlay

https://www.candygourlay.com

@candygourlay

Davina Hamilton 

https://www.davinahamilton.com/

@davina_writes

Ashley Hinds

https://www.ashleyhindswhdb.com/

@ashleyhindswhdb

Yasmeen Ismail

https://www.yasmeenismail.co.uk

@YasmeenMay

Nadine Kaadan

http://nadinekaadan.com/

@Nadinekaadan

Poonam Mistry

https://www.poonam-mistry.com/

@pmistryartist

Rikin Parekh

https://www.rikinparekh.com/

@r1k1n

Rita Phillips Mitchell

http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/member/rita-phillips-mitchell

Tola Okogwu

tolaokogwu.com

@TolaOkogwu

Smriti Prasadam-Halls

http://www.smriti.co.uk

@SmritiPH

Nadia Shireen

https://www.nadiashireen.org

@NadiaShireen

Ranjit Singh

https://lantanapublishing.com/products/nimesh-the-adventurer

@RanjittheAuthor

Chitra Soundar

www.chitrasoundar.com/

@csoundar

Malaika Rose Stanley

http://www.malaikarosestanley.com

Camille Whitcher

camillewhitcher.co.uk

@CamilleWhitcher

Verna Wilkins

https://www.booktrust.org.uk/authors/w/wilkins-verna/

Ken Wilson-Max

http://www.kenwilsonmax.com

@kenwilsonmax

Agent Zaiba Investigates – extract!

Determined to be the world’s greatest detective, Zaiba is always on the lookout for a crime to solve. She knows everything there is to know about running an investigation – in theory…

At her cousin’s Mehndi party, Zaiba gets her first challenge: to discover the identity of the VIP staying at the same hotel. With the help of her best friend Poppy and brother Ali, Zaiba puts her sleuthing skills to the test. And when the celebrity’s precious dog disappears, along with its priceless diamond collar, it’s up to the trio to save the day!

Stripes
Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Missing Diamonds, cover & internal illustration by Daniela Sosa

Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Missing Diamonds is the first in a new #UKMG series by Annabelle Sami.

Zaiba is a fantastic protagonist with a great team behind her. I love that her aunt is so involved in the story, even though the children basically work alone it is clear that they have plenty of adult support, the grownups aren’t disposed of to give the kids more space but instead the adults give them sensible freedoms (that they definitely make the most of) and actually listen to them! The plot races along, with funny and thoughtful dialogue and a well imagined setting – it is just great fun. The background of a Mehndi party gives us loads of food references and a chance to get to know the whole family, excellent scene setting with just the right level of description without interrupting the flow of the action.

There are a number of full page black and white illustrations in the book to highlight key events, as well as lots of smaller vignettes and chapter headings throughout. Daniela Sosa has done a brilliant job of really bringing the characters to life and keeping the readers eyes on the page.

I’m loving the resurgence in detective kids, and even more loving the diversity of all these new sleuths, Zaiba herself is British Pakistani. I can’t wait for book two, I want there to be as many Zaiba stories as there are about Poirot…and I can easily envisage a CBBC TV series of Agent Zaiba!

Annabelle Sami, author of the Agent Zaiba Investigates series

To give you a taste of what the book looks like (gorgeous), and how thrilling it is (very), I’ve been given an extract to share with you. There’s also a game to play at the end…

Download an extract and game here

Huge thanks to Charlie from Little Tiger for sending me a review copy.

Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Missing Diamonds is out now!

Clouds Cannot Cover Us

Clouds Cannot Cover Us: Poems by Jay Hulme

October will bring us this really powerful collection of poetry for teenagers, by young transgender poet Jay Hulme. Troika asked him to create a semi-autobiographical narrative, and included are reworked poems he wrote while at high school. He has said that when considering what to include he realised that what he’d wanted as a teenager, and what he wanted to give to teenagers, was the truth, and devised a two part story.

Being trans means that my life does feel almost like it comes in two halves. I have lived in this world as two people: The person I was before; angry, confused, violent, trying to find out what was wrong, trying to find my place in a world that didn’t want me. And the person I am now; proud, confident, at peace with myself, trying to forge a future to be proud of. With that in mind, I divided the book into two parts. The first half is filled with problems, anger, and confusion, and the poems in turn are often filled with industrial and urban imagery, dark, and claustrophobic. The second half is filled with hope, change, and growth – the poems here are often filled with natural imagery, they are lighter, softer, quieter – kinder.

Jay Hulme

No issue is out of bounds, anything he thought of as a teenager is included, some induce anger, some tears, some snorts of recognition, some a smile…and some all of the above. If I had to pick one favourite from each part, the one that made me stop and stare without moving on for a few minutes was his response to the Islamophobic attack at Christchurch earlier this year. That is towards the end of part 1, which is full of rage and sadness and despair at injustice. In part 2, possibly verging on soppy (which is very not me and yet it had me crying happy tears on a bus) is ‘Just the Small Things’ about the every day things that make you happy. Bonus mention though for ‘The Meaning of Stories’, which may resonate with many a reader, particularly I’d think readers of this blog (thank you so much Jay for letting me post it in full here):

THE MEANING OF STORIES


Perhaps it is true that none of my heroes exist,
summed up on a list entitled “fictional characters”.
My life lessons come from the mouths
of people paid to pretend they are someone they’re not,
but I can’t forget what they have taught me.


Because when words mean something, they stay,
no matter where they came from.
So who cares if I live my life by a line
issued from the mouth of Gandalf the Grey, on a film set,
it doesn’t mean it’s worth less than something
said by someone who actually existed.
Because attribution is overshadowed by meaning,
and the fact that these words stay with me
means more than the circumstances
under which they were uttered.


So if fiction is the foundation
on which I build my life, I can promise you
that my turrets will reach the sky,
before yours reach my dungeons.
Because fiction holds within it
the promise of a better world;
and I believe,
not just because I can,
but because I have to.

Jay Hulme
Jay Hulme

Jay Hulme is an award winning poet and performer from Leicester, Winner of Slambassadors 2015, and finalist in the 2016 Roundhouse Poetry Slam. He has recently branched out into children’s poetry, and his work was Highly Commended in the 2018 CLiPPA Awards. He also works as an ambassador for Inclusive Minds, promoting inclusion and diversity in children’s publishing, and doing sensitivity reads to ensure depictions of trans people in books are both accurate and unoffensive.

Thank you Jay for the pdf of Clouds Cannot Cover Us, coming soon from Troika.

Max Kowalski Didn’t Mean It

The problem with Wales, he thought, was that it was too far away.
But that was the point. To leave Southend behind. To get so far that no one would think to look for them there.

Max wants to be just like his dad – fun, loud and strong.
Instead, he always seems to be accidentally getting into fights and breaking things.
But when his dad starts bringing home mysterious boxes, even more mysterious wads of cash starts turning up.
Then Dad disappears. And it’s up to Max to look after his sisters until he comes home.
When they run away to a remote village in Wales, he’s convinced that no one will find them.
He’s Max Kowalski. Of course he can look after three kids with no grownups around!
Although, he can’t stop thinking about where Dad really went. And the whispers of a golden dragon, asleep under the Welsh mountains…

Puffin
Max Kowalski Didn’t Mean It

Over on twitter last month, Louie Stowell wrote the review “If Jacqueline Wilson ganged up with Alan Garner and remixed A Monster Calls, with dragons. Powerful and deep.” and I was immediately sold. Brilliantly, Susie Day, the author of said book, then offered to send me one of her author copies and I bit off her hand! It was as brilliant as expected, with warmth and humour and fabulous characters in pretty dire but totally believable circumstances. After reading it, I asked Susie if she would answer some questions for the blog:

In your books you focus on “issues” that are relevant to lots of children but often missing from children’s fiction, always beautifully encased in a fabulous story. What prompted you to tackle toxic masculinity? ‘Issue books’ always sounds such a miserable label, doesn’t it? Like All Bran instead of Coco Pops. I hope my books are a blend of both (although less disgusting than that sounds). I’m always trying to write about children whose lives feel genuinely reflective of the world we live in – which means acknowledging the challenges of poverty, or grief, or homophobia. But it also means celebrating the ways we live through all that stuff: through daft jokes, and family, and love.
We’ve made big cultural strides in celebrating girls who want to do traditionally ‘masculine’ things, from playing pirates and getting muddy to careers in STEM. But boys choosing stereotypically ‘girly’ things – being creative or sensitive, or being open to emotional expression and relying on friends for support – remains a bigger sticking point. When I worked at a boarding school for teenagers we had some mental health training, which showed me some really shocking stats. Suicide is the #1 cause of death among men aged 20-49 in the UK. We’re letting all kids down if we don’t try to identify why that’s happening, and work to change it.

You generally have female protagonists, how different was your approach when writing Max? This question really made me think! Max is a character who often won’t admit what he really feels or thinks, and wants to put up a front. But I’ve written lots of girls like that too – like Sammie in The Secrets of Sam and Sam, or Clover in Pea’s Book of Holidays. Max has ideas that he associates that very strongly with being a boy. But Sammie or Billie Bright: they bump up against the ‘required’ behaviours of being a girl a lot too. It’s the same problem, but with different expectations.
The challenge Max has is that he thinks of himself in one way – big, tough, capable – and that doesn’t match his reality. The challenge for me as a writer is how to show that. But the characters I love to read about most are the ones who are figuring themselves out while we read them. I loved finding the visible symbols of that when he’s not a boy who would articulate it: the trainers he covets, buys, then throws away; the jumper his best friend’s mum lends him, that he keeps on wearing.

The scenes in the climbing centre were very convincing, did you have to do a lot of research or are you a climber? My girlfriend is laughing at this question. This book was written after we went on a walking holiday in Snowdonia together. She’s been walking there for years; I’m an experienced hiker but with a pretty emphatic fear of heights. She took me up a mountain called Glyder Fach, without mentioning it involved a scramble (sort of midway between a walk and a climb, where you need to use your hands but don’t need ropes). We got to the top – but I did cry on the way. That’s the mountain in the book, with a name change and a little geographical creativity.
She helped me out with understanding climbing technique, and I watched the climbers on the rocks alongside the road up to Pen Y Pass, the start of the main Snowdon route. But I will never be a climber!

Castell Y Gwynt on Glyder Fach in Snowdonia by Balochdesign

Have you had much feedback from children about the story? What do they pick up on the most? Max as a character: that’s what kids seem to connect with. A friend of mine’s son was running round the park being ‘brave’, because that’s what Max is. I think the rising stakes help turn the pages too.

What kind of events do you enjoy doing most with children/in schools? I love school visits, whether it’s a KS2 assembly or classroom workshops. Like most authors, I’ve also done festivals to a roomful of babies, surprise 13-year-olds, and three people who are asleep, which certainly hones the improvisational skills…
Assembly-style sessions are interactive, with live storytelling and games. I’m always – I mean this genuinely, I’ve never not had this experience – awed by the creativity that’s waiting to be uncapped. But I think it’s important that I’m not there as a teacher. An author visit can really support curriculum, and I often tailor sessions to particular objectives, like reading for pleasure or editing. But it should also inspire in ways that are bigger and broader: that can just celebrate why reading and writing matters, and why books are relevant for all of us.
I don’t offer CPD for staff, but you might find my books, and my presence, useful for SRE.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to? I’ve just inhaled Louie Stowell’s The Dragon in the Library (7-9), which is all joy: clever, inclusive, highly-illustrated and a smart way to persuade non-readers they might like books after all. Gabby Hutchinson Crouch’s Darkwood is a pure Pratchett-for-kids fairytale: great for advanced middle- grade readers who like talking spiders and laughing out loud. And I’m in the middle of A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby, which is gently breaking my heart, while also making me really happy to see fiction about gaming. More please.

What’s next for you? Something I can’t talk about yet, sorry!
I’ve also written a short story for a new Doctor Who anthology called The Target Storybook, about the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) from the classic series. Every book I’ve written has a Doctor Who reference, so it was pretty sweet not having to find a place to fit that in for once. The book’s out in October, and I can’t wait to read the other stories.

Susie Day

Huge thanks to Susie for the copy of the book and the responses for the blog!

Max Kowalski Didn’t Mean It is out now!