Here is my plan. I am changing direction with my books. From the beginning my books were about representation of black girls in London where I lived and I put my time and £ into the project. Now I want a corporate sponsor who wants to share the positive messages in my book.
The books are full of good messages about girls doing STEM, being kind, sporting natural Afro hair, helping each other, wearing hair inspired by Brixton’s hairdressers, doing mischief.
My books are unusually ‘hair aware’. Each character is played by a child model who I had worked with previously when I did photography for photo libraries like Getty and Alamy. I knew each girl’s style – Mikita has a natural afro, Keysha always loved extensions, Ruby likes braids. Bekki the Fairy had a crazy style – because, in the stories, her magic spells affected her costume and hair. The girls all had their own look. London hairdressers are world class style leaders.
Over the past decade, more and more groups have popped up who share books with children in under-resourced areas. When by books head off around the world I know that kids see something of themselves in the starts of my book. Science, baby-sitting, magic and black hair mean something to little girls.
I am sending good wishes to Ferai Caldwell who organised this year’s festival but afterwards sent an email to all participants saying that the event was no more.
A successful, well-attended, buzzy event was visible on social media. Participants posted clips of authors sitting at their stands while readers milled around. The email suggested that a lack of money caused the event to go awry. Mr Caldwell might have needed a few generous sponsors to keep the show on the road. I don’t think this is the end of the story.
Mr Ferai Caldwell – founder of the AAABookFest – was looking to increase the numbers attending the AAABookfest. He seeks to promote African American writing. I am not American of African (Irish in London) but I have written a book that has appeal for the audience.
I was invited to add my book to the Freedom Bookstore. That was very exciting – I would have been in some very good company – however my book needs reformatting so next year it will be. Diversity will be a theme in the 2020 AAABookFest and I hope my London Irish book finds a kindly audience.
International Book Giving Day is on Valentine’s day – here is a guide to donating multi-cultural books. Everyone named is on Instagram.
Many children do not see people who look like them in books and this creates problems. My own book A Fairy in the Family was created to represent black kids in London but one book can only do so much.
With International Book Donation Day coming up I wanted to list some of the people who are doing their bit for diversity in books by accepting donations and then finding an audience for the books.
There are quite a few options when it come to donating books with children of colour. One woman referred to herself as a “Book Fairy” so I will borrow that term for my list.
Book Fairy One – Marley Dias(@iammarleydias)
Marley Dias is the schoolgirl who was encouraged by her mother to DO SOMETHING when she complained about the shortage of books featuring black girls on the cover.
Marley Dias started her #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign in 2015 and has collected well over 1,000 books. She shares the books with children in Jamaica and has created her GrassROOTS resource that lists her donated books here.
Book Fairy Two – Olivia (@blackgirlbooksmatter)
Olivia is a little girl who does lively book reviews under the handle @blackgirlbooksmatter Her feed is full of books and other artworks showing black girls.
Book Fairies Three and Four– Madison and Barrington (@50tates50books)
With help from mum, this sister and brother team has the goal of donating boxes full of 50 books to each of the 50 US states.
Book Fairies Five and Six – Jeannie and Bianca (@ColorfulPagesProject)
With the Colorful Pages Project educators Jeannie and Bianca are getting picture books into schools in their area of North Carolina. They look for books “featuring characters of color”.
Book Fairy Seven – Devon (@isemeinc)
Devon Frazier wants to dismantle the ‘school to prison pipeline’ by addressing problems with literacy in vulnerable children.
Book Fairy Eight – Trinity (@theyouthwillbeallwrite)
Even after kids have wound up in detention centres 16 year old Trinity has not given up on them and she donates staple-free composition journals to kids so that they might have a place to write.
Mattel has been working hard on diversity – as ever. The curvy dolls are a step in the right direction and the Made To Move dolls are impressively posable. Yoga poses of all types are possible. But kids are kids and dolls must be dolls. I haven’t seen freckles on a Barbie doll since the sixties – and even then it was the cute youngsters not BMR herself.
This interview is a work of FICTION with the authors bringing their characters to life.
Bekki: Hello Jaden. I am Bekki the Fairy. I am great because I do helpful spells. What is your most greatest, bestest thing about you?
Jaden: I think a lot of people would say my hair. When we went to New York City people stopped me on almost every block to say they liked my hair. Seriously. At first, I was giving people helpful hints on growing their afros, but then Mama kept telling me to just say, “Thank you,” even though that doesn’t seem very helpful at all.
But I wouldn’t say my hair is the best thing about me. I think my ninja dancing is way better than my hair.
Bekki: I can do some of the moves from Single Ladies. What are your favourite dance moves?
Jaden: It’s probably a tie between the Robot and the Moonwalk. Or a mega-tie between the Robot, the Moonwalk, the Warrior, Ninja on Tiptoe, the Rainbow, and the Dab. On second thought, I’ll just say the Dab. My sister taught me that one.
Bekki: My brother Sam used to be my baby-sitter but he won’t do it anymore because I turned him into a hotdog. Is your sister Sissy your baby-sitter?
Jaden:No, but she really, really wants to be. I told her if she really wants to convince Mama and Baba that she should make a PowerPoint presentation. PowerPoint presentations are scientifically proven to convince parents of anything. That and petitions.
I even said I’d help her make it because I’m kind of an expert in PowerPoints and all we’d have to do is become experts in the law so we could make a perfect case to convince our parents, but she said, “No, thank you,” for some strange reason. Weird, right?
Bekki: You’re from New Orleans? That’s in the United States, isn’t it? I come from London but I am a mixture of Nigeria, Ghana, Brazil, Portugal and Scotland. Are you a mixture?
Jaden: Um…I’m not sure. But [pulls out notebook] that gives me a great idea for a research project.
Bekki: Can you speak any Swahili?
Jaden: I know the Nguzo Saba (that means seven principles) from Kwanza, and I know how to say hello now that my cousin Muffin taught me. My mom can speak a lot of French, but Chinese is more my thing.
Bekki: Does your big hair take a lot of looking after?
Jaden: Sometimes. My mom washes it and combs it into my alien hair (my mom calls it twists, but alien hair is just better) and then leaves it to dry like that. Then I either wear my alien hair to school or I pull the aliens apart in an epic battle and free my ‘fro. That’s the best part. After a while my mom makes me get it washed again, though.
Bekki: What is the best thing about your mum?
Jaden: She gives really good hugs and she makes the best muffins.
Bekki: Do you want me to do a magic spell to turn you into a Ladek?
Jaden: So that I can become the most hated creature on the planet and nearby galaxies?!? No thanks.
Bekki: Hmmmf, suit yourself! I do skipping and I like rhyming songs. Have you got any good ones to share with me, please?
Jaden: If you like songs that rhyme you should listen to “My Shot” from Hamilton. It’s epic and it has lots of rhymes in it. Like, a ton.
Bekki: I love that song! Thanks for telling me about it! [Bekki dances and makes assertive hand gestures].
That show is coming to London– maybe mum will bring me. Now, next question, who is your favourite teacher and why?
Jaden: Miss Bates is the best teacher in the whole wide world! She knows how to do all the best stuff. Like, seriously. She does. One time she even showed us how to slice a banana without peeling it.
Bekki: If you were a toy would you be an action hero, a cuddly plush toy or a paper doll with loads of outfits?
Jaden: All of them. Definitely all of them. Action heroes are good for the tub and science experiments because they can get wet. Paper dolls are cool because I could make tons of ties for my tie collection. And, I mean, everybody likes plushies, right? What else are you supposed to sleep with at night?
Bekki: Jaden , will you go and play for a minute, please. I am going to talk to someone. Bekki is asking Jaden’s author, Marti Dumas, why she wrote a book.
Marti: I write stories about Jaden Toussaint, a character modelled on my own son when he was 5, because I couldn’t find books about kids who loved school and loved learning–let alone brown kids who loved school and learning–that were also fun.
I try to make the stories something that my own children and their friends enjoy and can relate to. Something where they can see their best selves reflected, including that your best self isn’t always perfect.
Bekki: Will you be writing more books?
Marti: Jaden Toussaint is the star of five chapter books so far, with a bonus book about the scientific method in the works for this summer. We’re kicking around ideas for a 6th book and, funnily enough, the main idea right now involves a babysitter! 🙂
Bekki: That’s super. My babysitters love me! [This is not completely true!]It has been splendid talking to you, Jaden. Can we be friends?
It is a long story but I have been making stickers as well as merch. The first two are up on Redbubble. I am trying to help raise awareness of a #GoFundMe campaign called Welcome Wave to take asylum seeking Irish kids surfing.
The stickers are based on a few people. One is Ruby from my book “A Fairy in the Family Again” and the other is an Afro-Irish activist called Kany Kazadi who I have blogged about before.
There are so many ways that science transforms our everyday lives. I am always on the lookout for STEM careers for the girls in my books – especially the STEM Lovin’ Baby-Sitters.
Today I was fascinated to hear about nanotechnology in fabrics. My books talk about jobs in science that have an appeal beyond science, particularly jobs in the hair and beauty industries. My character Keysha paints her nails while considering how to make eco-friendly pigmented polymers. She would be intrigued by the nanotechnolgy where elements are added to fabrics to give them new qualities – fire-proofing, stretchiness, UV protection, drug delivery (!) and many other superpowers.
I am investigating whether the leggings on the Zazzle website are made with nanotechnology. People are raving about them so I am checking out whether the fabric mills in Canada, where they come from, use nanotech.
Meanwhile, check out how you can combine art and science to customise your leggings. Here is Geeky Mikita added to leggings. This is the kind of topic that Miss Treacle might talk about in a future book.
My colouring book has appeared on Amazon. It is a colouring book for little girls who might enjoy being looked after by Jada-Kai, Keysha and Ruby the STEM Lovin’ Baby-Sitters. Little girls will like seeing what the big girls get up to.
The baby-sitters appeared first in my book A Fairy in the Family Again. The book tried to make a point about careers in STEM in the beauty industry. There is along history of black women developing hair products.
Imagine working in science to make products you love. Our pal Mumbi has done just that. Girls are going to have STEM careers that we have not even imagined.
This post is inspired by the Afro-Irish woman who wore green and red braids to support the Mayo team. Add your team colours to Ruby’s braids. Kany Kazadi was an asylum seeker who discovered the power and passion of the GAA, community sport that happens all over Ireland.
Her Twitter post went viral and got her a lot of media attention which she uses to campaign for better conditions for other asylum seekers. It took 12 hours to weave the coloured braids into her hair. It earned her a pair of tickets to the game as well as an appearance on TV on the Late Late Show.