I’m a firm believer that variety is the spice of life and our world is a much better place if we have friends from a mixture of backgrounds.
Tolerance, empathy and loving thy neighbour are all values I hope to pass onto Baby Bookworm and this has been more sharply brought into focus since we moved from multicultural London to the less diverse city of York.
Books are a brilliant way to start to instil these values even when a child’s experience of the world is still very limited and I was thrilled to hear that latest BookTrust Writer-in-Residence, Nadia Shireen, is using her six months in the role to talk about the importance of inclusive representation in children’s stories, along with the necessity of humour.
We are also huge fans of Nadia’s picture book, The Bumblebear (or as Baby Bookworm likes to call it “Norman”), which was the BookTrust Time To Read story in 2017 and given away for free to 700,000 children.
She says: “Picture books encourage kids to dream, giggle and wonder. At their best, they help them make sense of the world. As an author and illustrator, it’s part of my job to remember how varied children’s worlds can be.
“Here are five books that are inclusive, well-written, beautifully illustrated and fun…”
The New Neighbours by Sarah McIntyre. £6.99 (paperback), David Fickling Books
“Great illustrations are teamed with a story that encourages kids to ponder prejudice and inhospitable tendencies… but in Sarah’s typically funny, stealthy way. Also, three cheers for a picture book set in a tower block! It’s always cheering to see a range of housing reflected in a book. For example, I always thought it was great that Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola lived in a flat rather than a grand house or quaint cottage.”
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts. £13.99 (hardback), Abrams
“This book celebrates the intelligence and curiosity of a bright black girl called Ada Marie Twist. As someone who was useless at science, it calms me to know that Ada is out there discovering the source of odd smells and boggling at the universe. The illustrations in this book are particularly marvellous, which is no surprise when you learn they are by David Roberts.”
Islandborn by Junot Diaz, illustrated by Leo Espinosa. £9.90 (hardback), Dial Books
“Full disclosure: this book hasn’t been published in the UK yet, so I haven’t seen all of it. But I cannot wait to get my hands on it. It’s about a little Afro-Caribbean/Afro-Latina girl called Lola, who is trying to find out more about The Island she left as a baby. It’s a story about migration, memory and the day-to-day life of little girl in the city. Junot Diaz is a Pulitzer prize-winning author so I suspect it is probably quite well written. And Leo Espinosa’s bright, retro images look good enough to eat.”
Little Leaders: Bold Black Women in History by Vashti Harrison. £12.99 (hardback), Penguin
“While this isn’t a traditional storybook, I found Vashti Harrison’s profiles of important black women engaging and informative. Each profile is accompanied by a charming, if static, Mary Blair-esque illustration. Most of the women featured are American, but there are some Brits featured too – notably Diane Abbott, Tessa Sanderson and Shirley Bassey.”
Mole’s Sunrise by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies. Walker
“Mole has never seen a sunrise, but using evocative descriptive language, his animal friends eventually help him to ‘see’ one. This sweet tale was one of the few I could find that sensitively handled disability (in this case, Mole’s visual impairment) in a way that wasn’t patronising or heavy handed.”