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The books in this section cover a range of PSHE topics including bullying, family issues and racism. There are both fiction and non-fiction titles and cover age ranges from Toddler to Older Teen.
Professor David Olugosa has created this very accessible Illustrated History based on his previously published, bestselling adult versions of Black and British (adult), as well as the Short Essential History (aimed at teens). It is the book he wished he had when he was at Primary school. This version shows us key events in British history that have involved Black Britons – starting with the Romans and working through all the periods of history since. It explores the fact that Black peoples have been integral to the history of this country, as well as the more shameful impacts of the trades in enslaved peoples and the slow progress of the Abolition movement. Olugosa fascinatingly points out that it wasn’t until around 1661 when a Barbados Slave Code was introduced that the distinction between enslaved peoples and the white people became a social issue – to quote “It was around this time that some English people started to think of themselves as part of a group called ‘white’.” The Stuarts have a lot to answer for! The book follows history through to the modern day with illustrations of famous contemporary Black Britons. Each period has several double page spreads as appropriate to the activity of the time. The pages are well illustrated with historical documents, key dates and artefacts as well as depictions of the people discussed. Information highlights and maps are used throughout the book to aid understanding and accessibility to the reader. There is a very useful glossary of some of the less usual terms used to help readers understand what they are reading. This is a wonderful package, well laid out, full of fascinating illustrations and will be a vital book in classrooms and libraries.
December 2021 YA Debut of the Month | Set in a super-elite high school, How We Fall Apart, Katie Zhao's super-suspenseful YA debut, serves insights into race, class and the pressure to perform in gripping style. Shimmering with secrets, love, toxic peer pressure, parental pressure and tested loyalties, the novel delves deep into the world of academic competitiveness to create an edgy fast-paced thriller. Voiced by scholarship student Nancy Luo, “the daughter of two immigrants who’d fought tooth and nail to make it to the States, only to spend years struggling to make ends meet”, the story begins with the disappearance of one of Sinclair Prep’s most tipped-for-the-top pupils, Jamie Ruan. One-time best friend of Nancy, Jamie is the kind of girl who “could get away with anything, do away with anyone”, until someone does away with her. It’s not long before Nancy and her three friends seem to be the prime suspects in her murder, with an anonymous poster on the school’s gossip app incriminating them and threatening to reveal their darkest secrets. Tingling with suspense, and an undercurrent of class division, fans of edgy YA thrillers will be turning the pages at breakneck speed as the mystery twists and turns in unexpected directions.
December 2021 Debut of the Month | This thrilling debut is infused with the history, language and mythology of West Africa. Set in the mid 1400’s when the Portuguese first began abducting and then buying West Africans, it pursues an interesting perspective on the terrible human cost of the Slave Trade. The author describes in a note how she came across many stories featuring Yemoja, a Yoruba deity with the tail of a fish. Stories of giving comfort to Africans on the ships, or wrecking slave vessels or escorting home the souls of those who died and were discarded in the sea. From this and her own fascination with the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, the author has created an unforgettable story. Yemoja has created many Mami Wata, mermaids tasked with escorting the souls of enslaved people thrown into the sea. Simindele, a teenage girl, is one of them, but when she instead saves the life of a boy, she unwittingly puts all the Mami Wata in peril and must seek the forgiveness of the supreme deity. The boy she saves also has a dangerous mission to save his family and on their perilous journey they grow dangerously close. Just like The Little Mermaid, if Simi were to act upon her feelings she would dissolve into sea foam and just like Andersen’s creation Simi’s travels in human form on land cause her terrible pain. In the denouement there is also a hint of Persephone and Hades in her dealings with the oceanic equivalent of the Underworld. Throughout this action packed adventure the narrative is enriched with elements of West African language and we learn fascinating detail about their sophisticated societies, mathematical prowess, customs and religion. This is an innovative and refreshing mix of western and African myth wrapped up in a really rewarding read that should find many fans.
November 2021 Debut of the Month | From the window of a cosy house in a seaside town, a little candle looks out onto the world. As the seasons roll by, she observes families celebrating, lighting up dark nights with love for Chinese New Year, Diwali, Hannukah, Ramadan and Christmas. It makes Little Glow wish to be bigger, until the realisation comes that small moments and the smallest lights are just as important as big ones. Revelling in comfort and light, this story was made to be shared in the winter nights while its message of hope and togetherness will warm hearts all year round.
October 2021 Debut of the Month | From the window of a cosy house in a seaside town, a little candle looks out onto the world. As the seasons roll by, she observes families celebrating, lighting up dark nights with love for Chinese New Year, Diwali, Hannukah, Ramadan and Christmas. It makes Little Glow wish to be bigger, until the realisation comes that small moments and the smallest lights are just as important as big ones. Revelling in comfort and light, this story was made to be shared in the winter nights while its message of hope and togetherness will warm hearts all year round.
On a school trip to Rochester Cathedral, Leo is astonished to see a World War II memorial to a man with exactly the same name as him, Leo Kai Lim. Who was the Leo commemorated with a golden lion in the cathedral, and could there be a family connection? Determined to find out more, Leo suggests forgotten heroes as the theme for the class project on WWII, and it’s chosen alongside family histories. The project takes on even more significance when the class learn it will be put forward for a national Remembrance Day competition. In his endeavour to find out more about his namesake, Leo is helped by his best friend Sangeeta, who is tracking down information on the part played by Indian soldiers in the war, and thrilled to discover more about the role played by women too. He’s also helped, to his surprise, by Olivia Morris, universally regarded as the coolest kid in school. Leo’s efforts get him into trouble with his parents (a midnight phone call to his Aunty Su in Singapore) and his school (a disastrous, but very funny secret trip to the RAF Museum), but Leo’s determination is overwhelming. When a nasty racist bit of sabotage threatens the project, Leo suddenly finds everyone is on his side, and there are more surprises to come. Onjali Raúf writes superb adventure stories for children, full of excitement and incident, and has a great ear for the way they speak. This story will intrigue and entertain young readers while also helping them understand racism, past and present. It’s not just a really good read, it’s a really important read.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14 | Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2021 | Shortlisted for the Iris Award | Longlisted for the YA Jhalak Prize | Longlisted for the YA Diverse Book Award | Written with luminous, crackling style, Cane Warriors is an unforgettable account of Jamaican and British history that must be known, with an unforgettable narrator at its heart. In the words of fourteen-year-old Moa, “the hope of our dreamland churned in my belly,” a powerful statement that pulses through this extraordinary story of Tacky’s War. Based on a revolutionary real-life 1760 Jamaican slave rebellion, a visceral sense of the atrocities Moa and his fellow field slaves are subjected to is evoked from the start. Their bodies are lashed and “roasted by a brutal sun”, Moa hasn’t seen his house-slave mama for three years, his papa lost an arm in mill machinery, and his friend Hamaya fears the day predatory white men will “come for me.” Spurred by the death of Miss Pam who “drop inna da field and lose her life”, and led by Miss Pam’s brother Tacky, who “trod like a king” and whose brain “work quick like Anancy”, the uprising hinges on the freedom fighters killing the plantation master. While Moa is glad to be given a pivotal role in the rebellion, he fears that success and escape will mean he’ll never see his parents or Hamaya again - his conflict is palpable, but he’s set on being a cane warrior. Outside the plantation, Moa’s world is immediately transformed, with his life as a freedom fighter evoked in fine detail (I loved the depiction of him tasting creamy, fleshy sweetsop for the first time). There are bloody battles ahead, executed in the presence of Akan gods, and driven by brotherhood and hope for that dreamland. Lucidly lyrical and raw, I cannot praise Cane Warriors enough.
Big, bold and bright, this picture book tells the tale of the red Spots, who live on one side of the hill and avoid at all costs the scary blue Dots who live on the other side of the hill. Wait a minute though, turn it round and it’s actually the tale of the blue Dots, who live on one side of the hill and avoid at all costs the scary red Spots who live on the other side of the hill… Both stories meet in the middle when two babies – a Spot and a Dot – get lost and meet up, only to discover that everything their parents and grandparents believe is wrong. Layout, illustrations and the deliciously clever structure of the story as it proceeds from two different starting points – and two different ends of the book – to reach exactly the same place, serve to point out the absurdity of the Dots’ and Spots’ position. Even the youngest readers will understand exactly what the moral of it all is (once they’ve stopped laughing). Helen Baugh’s rhyming text is perfect in its conciseness and Marion Deuchars’ illustrations a triumph, each spot and dot a character of its own. This is one to shelve with other ingenious picture books that entertain and delight while imparting wisdom such as Jon Agee’s The Wall in the Middle of the Book, Smriti Prasadam-Halls’ The Little Island and David McKee’s Tusk Tusk.
Narrated by Ben Onwukwe Adapted for younger readers from his seminal adult edition of the same book, David Olusoga’s Black and British presents an engaging, illuminating and critically needed account of Black British history. Indeed, this succinct, impactful edition also serves as an excellent primer for adults. The introduction frames the book in the context of contemporary Britain - “Britain’s population is changing. More of us than ever are members of families that include people of different skin colours and ethnicities. Black history helps explain how national history is intertwined with our family histories. It helps us make sense of the country we are today.” And of course, contrary to popular perception, Black history has long been entwined with British history - it is British history. As the book reveals through lively, clear text - supplemented by fascinating maps and visuals - there’s evidence that Africans were part of the Roman army stationed in Britain as far back as 253AD. And contrary to the typical representation of Tudor England as being a white entity, several hundred Black Tudors have been found in historical records. Then, as European trade with Africa exploded - spearheaded by the Portuguese and Spanish who’d begun to buy and transport slaves from Africa - Britain wanted in on the lucrative action, and soon started shipping slaves to their Caribbean colonies. Come the early Georgian era (1714-1776) an increasing number of enslaved Africans were brought to Britain to serve wealthy families, as evidenced by the portraits and newspaper pieces reproduced in this book. Also covering the late Georgian era, the Victorian period, the two World Wars, through to the continuing Windrush Scandal, Olusoga has done an incredible job of correcting misconceptions and presenting the truth of Black British history in engaging, lucid style.
The authors of this excellent book have been friends since school and the book grew out of their own experiences of life as teenagers, the things they wish they’d known or been told. They write as if they are addressing younger sisters, recognising the extra challenges their readers will face growing up as Black girls, and that makes this an extraordinarily direct, authentic and empowering guide. There are chapters on subjects such as identity, friendship and understanding your body, as well as on hair, make-up and feeling your best, plus an excellent section on managing your finances. Quotes, anecdotes and advice from other influential Black women is included too, making the book even more effective and inspiring, and establishing a wider sense of community. “My wish is that this book can be the safe space you turn to when you need inspiration or comfort” says Natalie A. Carter in her introduction and the book is all that, and more.
At once a page-turning adventure set in the Californian wilderness, and an inspiring call to action for young environmentalists, Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Paradise on Fire teems with real-life issues (grief, racism, climate change and social inequalities) and emotional wisdom. Following the death of her parents in a fire, the novel’s endearing heroine, Addy, is being raised in the Bronx by her beloved Nigerian grandmother. From the outset, Addy’s grief is tangibly evoked - “Being an orphan is like being a crusted-over scab. Leave me alone. Don’t touch.” Similarly, though we never meet her directly, Addy’s grandmother feels ever-present, like a firm and loving hug that inspires confidence. “To know yourself, you need to journey, Adaugo. Remember what’s forgotten” - such advice echoes through the novel, spurring Addy to handle the most perilous of circumstances. This summer, Addy’s grandma has enrolled her on a wilderness program, which she joins with five other kids of colour for a few weeks of camping, climbing and hiking in the Californian wilderness. Usually insular, Addy flourishes at camp - her sharp mind, spatial awareness and keen cartographer’s eye come into their own here. Then, when fire strikes the forest, it falls to Addy to not only face her greatest fear, but to save her fellow campers from certain death. Gripping to the end, and underpinned by potent messages about climate change and the joys of connecting with nature, Paradise on Fire explores literal and metaphoric survival with heartfelt gusto and a mythological vibe courtesy of Addy’s name (which means “of the air. Far-seeing. Watchful”) and connection to eagles.