On Friday, I was getting annoyed about “diverse” book lists featuring kids’ books where most (in some cases all) of the books were written by white authors but featured a Black or Brown kid on the cover. That’s not “diverse” publishing. Britain (like most of the world) has to go a long way in truly equitable publishing.
Anyway, I thought I write a gift guide of my own. Picture books were the hardest since I don’t read that many these days, but I do usually buy Xmas gifts for a local charity each year and so I read a few each year to make a decision… in the last 5 years, I have made the concious decision to only donate books written by Black and Brown British authors. So this list is based on that reading.
I would also like to announce that my local area now has a bookshop again. I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for this. It is a children’s bookshop in Bearwood (on instagram: @bearbookshop) (also ships books) and she is happy to order any books (even adult) in. So please gift books this Christmas and buy them from a bricks and mortar bookshop, a real bookshop is something to treasure in any community.
All these authors are Writers of Colour, three of the illustrators are Black illustrators. Most of the books are by British author with one exception but the exception is worth it.
1. Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way by Tola Okogwu and illustrated by Naomi Wright
Tola Okogwu is a British journalist, writer and blogger and I loved this story. Quirky and cute and I imagine fantastic to read out loud (my teen refuses to be read picture books…).
2. Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank
Atinuke is a Welsh-Nigerian author and we loved the Anna Hibiscus books when my kid was younger. This is a more recent book and is a counting story. The illustrations are wonderful as well and there is plenty to see and point out.
3. Come All You Little Persons by John Agard, illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle
I have been a huge fan of John Agard’s poetry and this picture book is naturally a poetic one. If you never read his poetry, this picture book may be a good place to start.
4. The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad, illustrated by Hatem Aly
This is the only American book on this list but I liked this picture book so much and I love that Ibtihaj Muhammed is an American sable fencer, what a woman. This picture book deals with “firsts”, first day at school of the younger sister and first day of wearing a hijab for the older sister.
5. Get a move on! by Ben Bailey Smith (aka Doc Brown) and illustrated by Mette Engell
Doc Brown is a British rapper, writer, actor… he does everything basically. I loved this story of a family getting ready for an outing and everything going wrong. It’s a picture book on the cusp to “first reader” book, so a brilliant addition to any kid’s library.
6. Rocket Says Look Up! by Nathan Bryon, illustrated by Dapo Adeola
Nathan Bryon is a British actor and now also writer. Rocket wants to see a comet and asks everyone to go and see it with her. Lovely story about how things experienced together are so much better.