Lantana Publishing

Diversity and Representation of BAME characters in books has been a hot topic for some time now. Many publishers are trying to ensure they are part of the movement towards ensuring all children have the opportunity to see themselves in books.

The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) had issued a Reflecting Realities report in July 2018 and the results were incredibly interesting and thought provoking. They plan to do a second report and it will look at books published in 2018. More information and a brief overview of the report can be found here. https://clpe.org.uk/library-and-resources/research/reflecting-realities-survey-ethnic-representation-within-uk-children

The entire report can be downloaded from the CLPE website and it is a fascinating read.

Last week, Jo, writer of the Library Girl and Book Boy blog delved into this topic of Diversity. She spoke to several smaller publishers about theirs views, advice they could offer and ways of moving forward. It, too, was a fascinating insight into what publishers themselves had to say. My favourite quote from her blog was…”Well, books are the windows into worlds other than your own. A diverse and varied reading diet can open children’s eyes to experiences and cultures outside of their own. They can help start conversations and develop empathy. They can allow readers and their families to see themselves and those of others represented in a book. Surely all these things are invaluable in a society which seems to be closing doors and narrowing spheres of representation on a daily basis?” https://librarygirlandbookboy.wordpress.com/2019/09/05/support-our-small-independent-and-bame-publishers-how-you-can-help/

Lantana Publishing, is giving a voice to those who are under-represented in the childrens publishing industry. They have a wonderful catalogue of books to peruse and I am lucky enough to have been sent a bundle to enjoy. Please see below for a link to their books. Their vision, stated clearly on their homepage is this…

” Our vision is to make the world a kinder and more compassionate place for the next generation of young readers. We work with authors and illustrators of diverse heritage to publish award-winning children’s books where characters of all ethnicities are the stars.”

Books can be purchased from the Lantana website and they are also affiliated with Read for Good. This charity provides books for children in hospitals.

We are going to delve into a few of their books in this post and hopefully I can run another blog post on other fabulously diverse books and publishers in the future. My children attend an extremely diverse school, where almost 40 home languages are represented so this movement towards ALL children seeing themselves in books is something I am passionate about.

Nimesh the Adventurer
Written by Ranjit Singh, Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

The bright, bold use of colours grabs your attention straight away and I wanted to be an adventurer with Nimesh. This young, imaginative boy makes school and the walk home much more fun! It’s a pirate ship, the bottom of the ocean or a garden with a beautiful princess. Nimesh travels home taking steps into imaginary worlds, but when he arrives home….he is at home. Home for many children is a safe haven and one where they can relax and be themselves. I love that he doesn’t need to imagine it being anything other than home. Home is perfect!

The stunning collage illustrations are full of depth, making you feel as though, hidden beneath the pages, are the worlds that Nimesh is imagining. Children will be encouraged to form their own route home through frozen landscapes and with backflipping guardsmen.

A perfect book to share with all ages!

Chicken in the Kitchen
Written by Nnedi Okorafor, Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

Another beautifully illustrated book by Mehrdokht Amini. The chicken particularly is amazing, bright, full of flame coloured feathers leaping to life off the page.

Anyaugo is woken at night by strange sounds. Investigating, she finds a giant chicken in the kitchen. This is disastrous as the food is prepared for the New Yam Festival, and the chicken is causing havoc in there. Thinking cleverly she tries to make the chicken leave, although things seem to be worsening. Calling on her nature spirit, the Wood Wit, she is given some advice.

The chicken wanted to dance and be part of the celebrations. According to her father, communities are visited by masquerading figures wanting to celebrate the New Yam Festival. Steeped in West African tradition, this is a fun loving book and it was such a joy to read.

Kaya’s Heart Song
Written by Diwa Tharan Sanders, Illustrated by Nerina Canzi

This book is one of the most stunningly illustrated book I have ever had the pleasure to read. Bright greens, pinks and purples adorn the pages of this Malaysian jungle adventure.

Looking for her heart song, Kaya follows a butterfly into the jungle where she finds a broken and abandoned elephant carousel. Pulling vines from the elephants, Kaya begins to hear sounds and a beat. Listening closely, she feels that this is her heart song. Mama told her that happy hearts have a song and with your heart song, anything is possible!

When the carousel begins to move, Kaya and her heart song, find new friends and magic in the air. This book is brilliant for teaching children mindfulness and self-awareness. Schools are finding that these are important skills children need and this could be a stunning introduction.

Sleep Well Siba and Saba
Written by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl, Illustrated by Sandra van Doorn

Soft, muted colours give this book a joyous, dreamlike quality and it is a wonderful book to read. I love the use of the “s” sound throughout that make it roll off the tongue. Alliteration at its best. The sisters lose sweaters, sandals and slippers..in fact, they lose everything but each other!

Even their dreams are full of losing things! Until one night, they dream of finding things and the next day, they realise their dreams were more than just that. They soon find truth in their dreams. I loved reading this and imagine it makes a perfect bedtime story, a great opener to talk about dreams and a work of art to hold onto. Sleep Well Siba and Saba shares references to Ugandan folklore.

I loved reading and sharing these books, for it is important for ALL children to see themselves in books!

Thank you to Lantana Publishing for the set of books, their patience in my blogging about them and for publishing these wonders at all. I will happily share these books with the diverse school my children attend and hope that they inspire girls and boys to pick them up and enjoy them.

Have a read through the Reflecting Realities report from the CLPE and do visit Jo’s blog about diversity in publishing and how we can help. Both are brilliant ways to become more informed about BAME characters, authors, illustrators and the movement to ensure all are represented.

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