Diversity in children’s books

The great big book of familiesHere in Child Friendly Leeds @Child_Leeds, we’ve just matched our stock to the Best Culturally Diverse Books for children and ordered copies or extra copies of everything on the list that’s available. 

Authors and illustrators Alex Strick, Sean Stockdale and Ros Asquith are challenging people to look at some children’s books when they next go to the library and see if any of the leading characters are from less ‘conventional’ families , have any disabilities, are they all white?

They believe that alongside books about robots, aliens, gruffalos, vampires, dragons and wizards, books need to show a few more images of society as it really is: diverse. There should be a place for every child and it doesn’t need to be overt – books can include all children naturally, subtly and without comment.

Watch this space, we’ll post our list in the next few weeks when all the books arrive.

Ros Asquith and Mary Hoffman have already produced some books which do this (click the links to see copies):  Max the Champion which includes a vast range of disabled children and Great Big Book of Families  and  Welcome to the Family which remind us that there are many ways to make a family.

It must be good for all kids not only find someone to identify with in books, but also to read about and understand others’ situations.  Books play a valuable role in exposing readers to new ideas and experiences, allowing them to walk in other people’s shoes whether the character is a wheelchair user, has two mums, or is from a traveller community. 

There’s also a new initiative calling for all publishers to look at how they can make their books as inclusive as possible. It’s called ‘Everybody In’ and should pave the way to a new diverse world of books for all of us! The Everybody In campaign is asking people to tweet “I’m in” to @InclusiveMinds using the hashtag #everybodyin


#FF Poem of the Week

Sir Thomas Wyatt, by Hans Holbein the Younger.jpgThey Flee From Me

By Sir Thomas Wyatt 1503–1542 

They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.
Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise
Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small;
Therewithall sweetly did me kiss
And softly said, “Dear heart, how like you this?”
It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
But all is turned thorough my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
And I have leave to go of her goodness,
And she also, to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindly am served
I would fain know what she hath deserved.

Graven with diamonds: the many lives of Thomas Wyatt, courtier, poet, assassin, spyThomas Wyatt – courtier, poet, assassin, spy (read Graven with diamonds by Nicola Shulman) was in love with Anne Boleyn (the poem is about a fickle mistress and the trials of romantic love but not necessarily Anne) . According to his grandson George Wyatt, the moment Thomas Wyatt saw “this new beauty” on her return from France in winter 1522 he fell in love with her. When she attracted King Henry VIII‘s attentions sometime around 1525, Wyatt was the last of Anne’s other suitors to be ousted by the king.

And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am…
He was imprisoned on charges of adultery but eventually freed, thanks to his father’s friendship with Thomas Cromwell.

Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree series

The folk of the Faraway TreeAnyone an Enid Blyton reader?

Her Faraway Tree series, first published 60 years ago, is to be made into a film by Sam Mendes’ production company. Previous films include the Oscar-nominated Revolutionary Road, as well as the recent stage adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The Faraway Tree series tells the adventures of three children who stumble upon an enormous magic tree in an enchanted forest. The four books in the series are The Enchanted Wood, The Magic Faraway Tree, The Folk of Faraway Tree and Up the Faraway tree (on order).

Although they were written between 1939 and 1951, the stories of Jo, Bessie and Fanny and their treetop friends – Moon-Face, Mister Watzisname, Silky and the Saucepan Man, are still  popular. In fact Enid Blyton’s books have sold more than 500 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 40 languages. This series has lots of 5 star ratings from our readers.


UK is top at publishing

Did you know that in 2013, the UK publishing market was the world leader for the number of new titles published in relation population size?

UK publishers released 2,875 new titles per million inhabitants, more than 1,000 titles ahead of the next nearest, Taiwan. In absolute figures, the UK published 184,000 new titles and re-editions, the highest figure in Europe, with only the US and China publishing more, with 304,912 and 444,000 titles respectively.

Revenue from publishing in the UK was also good compared to rest of the world –  £4.7bn, the same as 2012.

The UK joins the US and Germany as a market which did not shrink, while other nations such as France (-3%), Italy (-6%) and Spain (-10%) all saw their values drop. Asian markets grew with South Korea up 2%, China 9% and Indonesia 16%. New Zealand was up by 6%, Mexico by 3% and Brazil 8%.

The UK also has the largest export market, €1.5bn, despite a declining 4% on 2012. The US is €1bn.

Publishing is the largest entertainment business internationally, with an estimated value in US dollars of $151bn, putting it ahead of the film business at $133bn, and magazines at $107bn.

New books!! This week’s Fiction Hotlist

The legacy of Elizabeth PringleBrothers in bloodThis week’s new fiction

Susanna Gregory’s Murder on Holborn has already been rated 5 star – twice -

n 1665 England is facing war with the Dutch and the capital is awash with rumours of Murder on High Holbornconspiracy. These are more frenetic than normal because of the recent sinking of one of the largest ships in the navy – a disastrous tragedy that could very well have been caused by sabotage. As an experienced investigator, Thomas Chaloner knows that there are very few grains of truth in the shifting sands of the rumour-mill, but the loss of such an important warship and the murder of Paul Ferine, a Groom of the Robes, in a brothel favoured by the elite of the Palace of White Hall makes him scent a whiff of genuine treason

Plus novels by Kirsty Wark. New Simon Scarrow. Walking Dead and Homeland. A Martina Cole and lots more –

Check the hotlist

Bill Gates’ favourite romcom novel

Detail Page Book Jacket

Bill and Melinda Gates loved The Rosie Project the debut novel by Graeme Simsion (and the sequel) saying it was ‘laugh out loud funny and profound’

A romantic comedy featuring professor of genetics Don Tillman (39, tall, intelligent and employed: “Logically I should be attractive to a wide range of women”), has undiagnosed Asperger’s and the author explores how a grown autistic man might approach a romantic relationship.

Don has two friends – his colleague at a Melbourne university, Gene, and his psychologist wife, Claudia, who try to help Don find love but “unfortunately their approach was based on the traditional dating paradigm, which I had previously abandoned on the basis that the probability of success did not justify the effort and negative experiences”.

To choose a suitable wife, Don designs a detailed questionnaire that filters out unpromising candidates: women who are unpunctual, overweight, vegetarian; who drink or smoke or have STDs. 

Then he meets Rosie, who fails on almost every scoreThe Rosie Effect: Don Tillman No. 2  andit looks like there is no chance of love blossoming. When Rosie enlists Don’s genetic expertise to help find her natural father, otherwise known as The Father Project, the two are thrown into an entertaining series of comic set pieces and occasionally life-threatening situations.


Recently  The Rosie Effect 

With the Wife Project complete, Don settles into a new job and married life in New York. But it’s not long before certain events are taken out of his control and it’s time to embark on a new project. As he tries to get to grips with the requirements of starting a family, his unusual research style gets him into trouble. To make matters worse, he has invited his closest friend to stay with them, but Gene is not exactly the best model for marital happiness


Hardbacks, paperbacks

The narrow road to the deep north “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” by Richard Flanagan, which has just won the Man Booker Prize, is only available  in hardback at the moment in the UK. Borrow it FREE from your library.

At 9 inches long and 464 pages deep, it weighs more than half a kilo so it is heavy to take on holiday or on the bus and to buy costs £16.99  A lighter, cheaper paperback edition will be published next year. So why do books come out in hardback first?

It’s usually books that are expected to sell well that come out in hardback first. Known as “windowing” it’s a sales strategy also used in the film industry, where cinema releases precede DVD versions by several months. Like cinema tickets, hardcover books generate more profit per unit than paperbacks. Film buffs like watching on the big screen; book collectors enjoy the hardback’s premium quality.

Hardbacks often have something extra – “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” has bright red endpapers, some embossed covers or come with bookmarks. Literary editors traditionally don’t review paperbacks!

Once hardback sales slow down, a paperback edition is released. More copies are printed and they sell in greater numbers but at a lower margin than the hardback. Libraries  buy hardbacks to make sure customers get the title as soon as possible, but we buy paperbacks in much larger quantities to get best value.

Some publishers time their hardback editions to come out just before Christmas, eyeing the gift market, before publishing the paperback edition in time for the summer holidays.

Early books had small print runs and were expensive, and paperbacks  only took off in Britain and America in the ’30s, (though had been around since 19thC) when Penguin and New American Library mass-produced cheap,  well-designed reproductions of older texts aimed at  readers who couldn’t afford hardbacks. Interest in reading as a pastime increased in WW2 –  just when paper was in short supply and more efficient methods of printing needed to be found.

Book collectors not wanting to pay for hardbacks, who used to wait for the paperback edition, can sometimes buy the title more cheaply as an eBook . “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” can be bought as an an eBook for about £6.  In the past, a successful book might have sold four times as many copies in paperback as hardback, but some recent releases have sold more copies in hardback than paperback, because of eBook versions.

This is where libraries sometimes miss out, not all popular titles are made available by the publishers for libraries to buy as eBooks! But whether you borrow hardback, paperback or the eBook version from libraries, all are free.