Another of my diversity in children’s books posts, this post focusses on self-identified BAME, disabled, and queer authors.
First up: why is it important to hear stories from these authors? Honestly, I think it’s a bit depressing that this is a question, but publishing is so dominated by a particular white, middle-class group of people that in a lot of cases it really IS a question. Different people have different stories to tell. Children need to see authors of all different colours, genders, sexualities, religions and nationalities: to do so gives them a wider perspective of the world and helps them to realise that anyone can be an author if they work hard enough on their craft.
S. F. Said’s books Varjak Paw and its sequel The Outlaw Varjak Paw focus upon a cat who learns a mysterious martial art. His other book, Phoenix, is a wonderful sci-fi adventure about a boy in the far future who wakes up only to realise that he is on fire. S.F. Said is also a writer for The Guardian, and has written about the importance of diversity in books.
Atinuke’s Anna Hibiscus and No. 1 Car Spotter books are really brilliant, and she has stated that she wrote them partly because it became obvious to her how little children in the UK really knew about what life is like in Africa.
I recently came across Yasmeen Ismail’s book ‘ I’m a Girl‘ all about a loud boistrous girl who keeps getting mistaken for a boy. I was instantly in love. Her art style is wonderfully colourful and unique.
Probably the most famous of this list, Malorie has published an enormous number of books. Her YA ‘noughts and crosses’ series remains very popular, but she has loads of books aimed at younger children too. She is also a recent Children’s Laureate, during which time she campaigned for greater diversity in children’s literature. To be fair, she’s been campaigning for greater diversity in children’s books for far, far longer than that.
If you have a child in reception this year you will have come across Nadia’s work – she wrote the Bumblebear! She’s written loads of other fantastic books too, including the Yeti and the Bird and Good Little Wolf.
The Swedish-speaking Finnish creator of the Moomins makes this list on account of being one of my favourite writers ever, and genuinely being an awesome person.
I read ‘Introducing Teddy’ a few weeks back and instantly loved the story. I hope to see more books from Jessica in future.
Floella was my favourite TV presenter when I was five, and her various books are BRILLIANT. I’m currently reading ‘Coming to England’ and I’m really looking forward to reviewing it!
Na’ima B Robert
An award-winning author,Na’ima has written some really wonderful children’s books which are refreshingly different to everything else I’ve seen. Na’ima’s book ‘The Swirling hijaab’ is wonderful and really beautiful. I love Ramadan Moon as well, and have dual language editions of both in the library.
Cerrie Burnell, most famous for her work as a presenter on CBeebies (and for the controversy created when she didn’t wear her prosthetic onscreen) is also a really good author. Her Harper books are really popular in our school library, and she’s recently given up presenting to write more children’s books. Watch out for them!
Having written about all of these authors, I’d like to also give a shout out to a few campaigns who are trying to make publishing inclusive and diverse. There are plenty more out there, but the following are ones I’ve had direct contact with.
We Need Diverse Books are a non-profit based in the US. They’re champions of diversity in all its forms, and their Tumblr is full of fantastic book lists. Also check out their ‘ourstory’ app, which is a curated app with LOADS of great book suggestions on it.
Minorities in Publishing is a fortnightly podcast by Jenn Baker, discussing the lack of representation in the world of publishing. The podcast can be found via their tumblr or via Itunes.
Knights Of are a brand new publisher. I’ve heard whispers of great things on the way and am really looking forward to seeing what they do. They’re some of the architects behind the #Booksmadebetter campaign.