Living in a part of London where ‘vintage’ means secondhand and damn expensive, I loved these book covers. These are the old books that pop up in jumble sales and charity stores. I so want to be a warrior, while reading the nursery rhymes.
A beautifully written and poignant article from the Sunday Review of The New York Times about the impact of the lack of young, African American children in books.
A story for a compilation for girls. No magic, no princesses. This was one of my first paid commissions and my type of story.
I sent in proposals for two stories. One was about two young sisters who made their arthritic grandmother a robotic arm out of an extendable mop handle. The the was a short, sweet tale about a girl who is inspired by the shape and tones of a bees wing to enter the school carnival costume. See? No magic. No princesses.
The proposals were duly submitted and accepted. I wrote the stories and eventually received a big envelope with a copy of the book. My daughter and I, eagerly tipped it out on to the sofa and instantly flailed around searching for our sunglasses.
This picture does not do justice to the pinkness, the glitter and – well – the pinkness.
My daughter, who has nothing to do with ballet, or horses (after being bitten by one) gave me a ‘sell out’ look and disappeared upstairs. It was a good lesson in a) how to write short stories for publication in children’s anthologies, b) gender-specific marketing and c) how parents start to disappoint there children so, so soon.
Last year, I was lucky enough to work with the illustrator and writer, Eileen Browne, on a project to promote literacy in prisons. Even though my daughter is now 14, we still flushed out her old copy of ‘Handa’s Surprise’, to get it signed. However, it was the books about Jo, a child with a black mother and white father, just like my daughter, that I am grateful for. According to the vast majority of children’s picture books, families like ours didn’t exist.
Eileen delivered a workshop on writing for children to young fathers in a London prison. Many of these men were not accessing the prison education service and approached the workshop with great caution. The impact was considerable and many saw the workshop and the stories it inspired in them as a way to link with their families and children.
Now Eileen, along with other writers, is challenging the publishers on gender. There is is still a perception that while girls will follow protagonists of both genders, boys are only interested in boys. Better get Katniss on to that.