Category Archives: Books

Thinking about birth mothers

For quite a while now I have been thinking of writing a blog post about birth mothers. There have been three main reasons why I have been thinking about them.

Firstly because of a conversation with a woman on the bus. We had both come out of a session of Aquafit at the local Sports Centre. This lady was brought up in the West Indies.  She told me that this year she hopes to go on a cruise, as it will be her 70th birthday. It will also be her husband’s 80th birthday, their Golden Wedding celebration and her grandson’s 21st birthday. She was beaming as she told me of all these happy occasions to come.

Then her facial expression changed. She grew more serious and said, “My birth mother died aged twenty, giving birth to me. I think of her often”.

After a moment’s pause I asked who had brought her up. She said an aunt. I then ventured to ask whether she had had a good childhood and she said, “Yes. My aunt was pretty good to me”.

The next reason for writing about this theme was after watching a BBC programme interviewing birth mothers form 1970. They had all been persuaded to hand their babies over for adoption. I don’t think anyone interviewed had taken this action voluntarily. Strangely enough, although by the 1970s there would have been benefits awarded to single mothers and presumably some support, the girls themselves had seen no way out of their dilemma. Mostly they have given birth aged seventeen and been unduly influenced/pressurised by their own mothers and agreed to adoption. Some still longed to hear from their long lost children. I believe one woman had actually made contact with her child and the encounter had gone well. It was quite moving to see how deeply all the others longed for contact after all these years.

The existence of the Internet may make contact easier these days but equally the passage of years may make it less likely.

The third reason that has made me think of birth mothers is the amount of children’s novels published recently where the theme is mourning the death of the main character’s mother. I have just read three such books but I think there are others. I wonder. Does a certain idea float in the air and inspire authors? All three books I mention below are moving and excellently written. I recommend them heartily.

the Boy Who Sailed         The Secret Hen House theatre

A Library of Lemons

A last thought on birth mothers. How much dreadful suffering is going on around the world today! There are birth mothers (and fathers) struggling to live in refugee camps. There are mothers whose daughters have been kidnapped by rebel troops and raped and murdered.

I don’t want to end on a dismal note because often there is good news around somewhere if one can find it. The good news from me today is that on our street healthy triplets have been born to two proud parents. Congratulations and Hooray!

An Interconnected world “For more unites us than divides us” Jo Cox MP. RiP

 

My brother and I were brought up in an international atmosphere. Our parents were keen members of the Esperanto movement.  As readers of this blog may know, Esperanto is an artificial language.  It was used more in the days before English became such an international language. Our parents met Esperantists from around the world before the second World War. This artificial common language enabled them to talk to fellow Esperantists, regardless of anyone’s mother tongue. It included people who were soon to become ‘cut off’ from many others after the War, as their countries disappeared behind the Iron Curtain, such as Poland, Czechoslovakia etc.  I am sure our parents must have thought a lot about their friends, whom they could no longer contact.

As a family we have cousins and family in France, Sweden, Tobago, New Zealand, Australia, California, other parts in the United States and I expect that many families have links with even more countries. Today’s children will often meet children in their schools who have come from a variety of countries and who speak a variety of languages. We live in an interconnected world!

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Learning about other countries. Refugees.

Today we are able to access world news almost round the clock. However, at a time when the world seems a smaller place and when we are becoming more inter-dependent, recently there has been an unpleasant rise of nationalism and suspicion of people who come from other countries. This is very sad, especially as so many people have been forced to flee their own countries.

I don’t know how much modern parents talk to their children about the plight of so many deprived children around the world (or even in our own country).  I do know that schools try to educate the children about life in other countries.  (One of our granddaughters has been so interested in a school project on China. To her delight, this culminated with making a huge papier-mâché model of the Great Wall of China! )

Gt wall of cChina

However, until recently I had only heard of one children’s book for very young children that addressed the question of being a refugee/Asylum Seeker. (“The Silence Seeker” by Ben Morley and Carl Pearce, published by Tamarind Books.)

The Silence Seeker by Ben Morley and Carl Pearce

In my last blog post I added a P.S.

“On 13th June on the Today Programme I heard about a German book for children about the life of a refugee child. Apparently it is becoming a best seller. I have tried to find out its name……….. If any reader can tell me the title I’d be most grateful.”

 Well. My husband Donald came up with the title, shortly followed by one or two other friends.

 

Unfortunately as yet I cannot provide a direct link, but if you copy the URL below, it should bring up the English translation.

<https://www.onilo.de/boardstories/abspielseite/?tx_bsproducts_player%5Bpresentation%5D=1181>

 

Then a friend Jo posted the Radio 4 link – see below

“How do you explain the refugee crisis to children?

A new children’s book tells the tale of a family who flee the dangers of the Syrian war, make a perilous journey across the Mediterranean, and arrive in Germany in search for a better life.

Famous German author Kirsten Boei told presenter Sarah Montague how she managed to get children to understand the lives of refugees in Der Spiegel’s number one bestseller,” Bestimmt wird alles gut” (Everything will be alright).”

 

Kirsten Boel. Bestimmt wird alles gut(Image: children. Credit: AFP)       Release date:         9 June 2016 ”

I must try and get a copy of this book.

The portrayal of children from diverse backgrounds (1)

Princesses (?!)

I don’t necessarily advocate filling girls’ heads with fantasies of being ‘princesses’, but on the other hand I am committed to the view that there is beauty to be seen in all colours and ethnic backgrounds. This should therefore be reflected in images that surround us.

It was in the 1970s that I first thought about the portrayal in the media of girls and princesses. When we were in Malaysia we had friends who were from Northern Ireland. They came from different sides of the religious divide and had left their hometown of Newry on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Later they settled in Northern Australia.

Eileen, the mother raised a topic that I had never considered in those days. She asked “Why are all heroines and princesses in story books and films portrayed as blond with blue eyes?” She was most indignant about this, as their daughter had lovely brown hair and brown eyes.  Naturally she wanted to see a brown haired, brown eyed  princess!

 I am writing this in June 2016 – 46 years later – and diversity is still a contentious matter. I have just read an article by a Dutch writer Mylo Freeman entitled “Black girls can be princesses too, that’s why I wrote my books”

The Princess Arabella books are now famous in Holland and beyond, but publishers worried Arabella’s ‘uncombed’ hair might be considered offensive in the US.

Mylo Freeman

Every girl is a princess

Disney

Someone in our local U3A group (A shared-learning organisation for retired people) has started a film study on animated films. She announced that Disney had at last decided to feature heroines from different ethnic backgrounds.

A few years ago I had pounced with joy on the film “The Princess and the Frog’, which starred a delightful black girl and followed her as she grew into a beautiful young black woman (although for a while she was a frog!!). I bought a Tiana doll for our black granddadughter, Mia.

Princess and the frog

Children however can be very perverse. Mia DID love the film, so that was excellent. Pity that she never played with dolls, so Tiana remains in our home, sitting in a basket, waiting for her cousin, another younger granddaughter (Jah’s daughter) to play lovingly with her.  Well. You can’t win everything!  (Interestingly Jah’s daughter has blue eyes and now her curly hair is very dark, although it started out almost blond.)

 

At our U3A session in June, we watched “Brave” – another Disney film that highlighted a minority culture – Scottish people, many of whom had red hair. Princess Merida Certainly had glorious red curls And I find that very good, as we do notice a large number of people with red hair when we go to our beloved Scotland.

Brave

Films from other countries

Our study of animated films began with a strange but extremely skillfull film entitled “Strings” from Sweden. The entire full-length film was played by string puppets. I don’t remember whether there were any princesses in that film. I do remember a lot of strangeness and fighting. However, I am glad that it came from Sweden. I can only say that the more one learns about other cultures and backgrounds the better.

In my next blogpost I’ll be mentioning an extremely interesting and informative afternoon conference I attended recently  It was organised by “Inclusive Minds”

Learning about other cultures in school.

Jah’s little daughter has been “doing” China in their latest school project  It was lovely hearing her tell me about what she has learned about China and Chinese children. She is now aged eight years old and at such a receptive age.

I am grateful to her school and to the teachers for widening the children’s horizons.   Schools can be such great places in so many ways!

61JaT5d7-XL._AC_US160_

 

P.S.

On 13th June on the Today Programme I heard about a German book for children about the life of a refugee child. Apparently it is becoming a best seller. I have tried to find out its name. Sorry that I have not yet found it. If any reader can tell me the title I’d be most grateful.

ADOPTION TODAY – Help/information/support

My last blog ended with this sentence “I have heard that there is more help for adopted and looked-after children nowadays.”

This is good news for people involved in adoption today.

Sam had been with us for one whole year in 1973 before we ever read or heard anything helpful about bringing up a black child as white parents. This was when our Adoption Agency sent us an article from an organisation called “The Open Door Society” in Canada . As I wrote in one of my earliest blogs:

The main thrust that came through to us was that ‘Love is not enough…  Society will see your children as black…  …… The parents have a responsibility to instil in their child, through the media of literature, art and music, a pride and understanding of his racial heritage.” 

 Apart from the only two multiracial families that we met in the North East of England, our support came mainly from the organisation called Harmony that we encountered when we moved to Leicester in the Midlands.

Harmony-badge

Harmony was an organisation for multi-racial families whether by adoption, fostering or through mixed-race marriages. It was at Harmony gatherings in the 1980s that we learned a lot about skin care and hair care, It was a supportive forum where we could share information  for example about books and toys that showed children who looked like our children.

Aurora 006

 

 

 

 

I have written about this before. So what is new nowadays?

  • More books featuring the diversity of our population (even if not yet enough. . .)
  • Recruitment of people from ethnic minorities in most areas of Social Work
  • Adoption websites, discussion forums, blogs, shared Tweets  #Adoption.  THESE CAN BE DISCOVERED VIA GOOGLING “ADOPTION SUPPORT”
  • Greater awareness in schools about the special situation of “looked after” children
  • Training and information for families. See the Pac-UK site:  Here below is information about help that is offered in schools in England.

http://www.pac-uk.org/   “From April 2014, schools in England can receive the Pupil Premium for children adopted from care, or who left care under a Special Guardianship Order on or after 30 December 2005. Schools can also claim the Pupil Premium for children who left care under a Residence Order on or after 14 October 1991.

The Pupil Premium is to help schools raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and close the gap with their peers.  It is paid to schools in respect of disadvantaged pupils in Reception to Year 11. The Government has extended the coverage of the Pupil Premium in recognition of the traumatic experiences many adopted children have endured in their early lives and a realisation that their needs do not change overnight”.

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I wish this kind of help had been available for Jah in the 1980s. (sigh)

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+ A Helpful booklet published in 2014

In April 2014 a group of multi-racial families in Cornwall has published an extremely helpful booklet in partnership with Barnardo’s.

“Children Visible by Colour in Cornwall: Suggestions for parents and carers raising BME (black and minority ethnic) and dual heritage children who are ‘visible by colour’.”

Kowetha doc

Kowetha is a pioneering community group of parents and carers living in the West of Cornwall who are raising BME and dual heritage children who are ‘visible by colour’.

The Kowetha Community group has written a handbook to support other families of diverse racial background, which is also valuable for teachers and practitioners. The handbook has been supported by Barnardo’s and considers the following:

  • How a child’s racial heritage influences their childhood experiences in Cornwall.
  • The importance of moving beyond ‘colour blindness’ and positively educating children in Cornish schools about racial diversity.
  • How schools and agencies might recognise and support the unique social pressures experienced by children who are visible by colour, thus meeting their duties under Ofsted.

The advice, information and shared experiences are applicable for all multi-racial families wherever they live . I can heartily recommend it.

“Looked-after children” – Yesterday and Today. Illustrations in literature.

During 2015 I turned on the radio and heard the following startling statement. I jotted it down

“Every 20 minutes a child enters the care system. There are currently 63,000 children in Care.” That figure surprised me.

Somewhere else I jotted down “Famous adoptees” that I knew of. I wrote:

  • Steve Jobs ( of Apple fame),
  • David Dickinson (Antiques programmes and “Who do you think you Are?”),
  • Michael Gove (Government Minister),
  • Jackie Kay (author and poet), Lemn Sissay (poet – former Writer in Residence at the South Bank).

Of course there are many more famous adoptees.

A few years ago I visited the Foundling Museum in London – the foundation that Thomas Coram set up in 18th Century with backing and support from Handel and Hogarth and other famous artists who were concerned about the fate of the many extremely poor and abandoned children.

Foundling Museum

I had seen the cabinet holding the tokens that mothers left when they left their children – The following matter-of-fact explanation taken from Wikipedia does not attempt to convey how moving it is to see these tiny, simple tokens.

EXTRACT from WIKIPEDIA: “Foundling tokens (coins, a button, jewellery, a poem) were given by mothers leaving their babies, allowing the Foundling Hospital to match a mother with her child should she ever come back to claim it. Sadly, the overwhelming majority of the children never saw their mothers again and their tokens are still in the care of the museum.”

Illustration – “Drawing on Childhood”

In February 2016 a friend drew my attention to an exhibition entitled “Drawing on Childhood”. It was an exhibition that featured the work of major illustrators from the eighteenth century to the present day, who have created powerful images of characters in fiction who are orphaned, adopted, fostered or found.

The exhibition was most interesting. It showed a variety of illustrations, sometimes by different illustrators of famous books, such as ‘Peter Pan’. For example Mabel Lucy Atwell’s illustrations were quite different in tone from earlier artists.

Here is the original book cover.

170px-Peter_Pan_1915_cover

And here is Mabel Lucy Atwell’s illustration of the scene where Wendy reads to the Lost Boys.

Mabel-Lucie-Atwell-from-Peter-Pan-and-Wendy-by-JM-Barrie-1921-c-©-Lucie-Attwell-Ltd-www.mabellucieatwell.com_1-e1449485484439-848x400

 

 

 

 

 

I was interested to discover that in 2015 a graphic novel version of Peter Pan by Stref was published. Here is his picture of the grand house the Darlings lived in. The children can just be seen flying high above the house.

Stref-from-JM-Barries-Peter-Pan-The-Graphic-Novel-2015-published-by-BC-Books-400x400

I imagine that most readers of this blog will be able to think of many stories about orphans. In fact, where would one begin?! Here are some authors and their illustrators that I think of first:

Charles Dickens (Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and many other characters, illustrated by many different artists – George Cruikshank being one of the most well-known)

Madeline

Ludwig Bertelmans who wrote and illustrated the Madeline stories (1939).

In all these cases, the artists/illustrators added greatly to the story.

Later there were many stories by Noel Streatfeild featuring motherless children. A book I always enjoyed is “Heidi” by Johanna Spiri, illustrated here by Janet Johnston.

Heidi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the more modern era one can think of. Roald Dahl (James and the Giant Peach, Charlie – “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”… “Matilda” illustrated by Quentin Blake)

CHARLIE

Harry Potter! By J.K. Rowling.

“Tracy Beaker” and “Hettie Feather” by Jacqueline Wilson, who is famously illustrated by Nick Sharratt.

Tracy Beaker

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

 

After the exhibition I had a cup of tea with my friend in the Museum’s café. I rather wish it had been there when our boys were young. The walls are covered with clearly printed names of people who were either adopted or fostered – ‘Looked After’. Their achievements are varied and impressive and often realised against great odds. It was most interesting and enlightening. I think if I were an adopted person I would have liked sitting there and I think I would have just soaked up the general atmosphere and the effect of all those names.

There is far more interest and I have heard that there is more help for adopted and looked-after children nowadays. I am glad about that.

Follow-on from a blog post about Children’s books, including some books about different countries around the world.

As I said in the last blog post, Lucy pointed out that I had mis-remembered some of the books our children read when they were young.

However, Anna agreed that I had remembered correctly that she hardly read any stories until the summer after her GCSEs. The first book she read then was “Catcher in the Rye”, by J. D. Salinger and after that there was no turning back for Anna. Today she reads mostly non-fiction, such as biography, History of World War 2 etc. but also a lot of fiction.

FICTION/NON-FICTION?

There is no “rule” that says that a child has to enjoy FICTION. They should be free to read what they enjoy. When we discovered that Anna loved funny poems, riddles and non-fiction, we were able to share our love of words with her in the way that suited her best. (She wasn’t keen on sitting still long enough to hear long stories.)

Currently, Nicola Morgan a very respected author, is what she might call ‘banging the drum’ that non-fiction also has a place alongside imaginative fiction and that it is equally valid. Nicola is a respected author.  She serves on the Children’s Writers’ Committee of the Society of Authors and she speaks with authority.

I know this is not meant to be a literary blog and anyway, many people may not ever have known that there has been prejudice against children concentrating on non-fiction. However, here I hope I can point to some books that might be of interest to people who wish to share with children some information and interest in other countries.

Children's Atlas           Big Book of the World

I believe I have mentioned before Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith’s “The Great Big Book of Families”. I wish that book had been available when we were bringing up our multiracial family. Fortunately we now have grandchildren to buy books for. These are lovely books to share with

them.the-great-big-book-of-familiesfamily reading

 

 

 

 

 

NOW Here is a touch of self-indulgence. A few days ago a friend said that she found one of my long-ago-published stories in a doctor’s waiting room. She was there with her granddaughter. Of course I was both surprised and delighted.

Here below is the cover of another story I wrote long ago. I believe that it still gets borrowed from libraries. Hooray!

Sammy's Xmas

Three cheers for libraries, books, writers and artists.

I end with a few Christmassy illustrations.

Santa             Imagescourtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
globe

Image courtesy of xedos4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 In the New Year I shall carry on with the story of Jah – moving towards the teenage years. . .In the mean time “Happy Christmas” to readers of this blog wherever you are in the world!

Thinking about children’s books around Christmas time (continued). Some Mistaken Memories. Some well-remembered memories.

I thought that I had an excellent recall of our children’s activities (those that I ever heard about!), their likes etc. However, Lucy tells me that I got it wrong about the children’s stories I mentioned in my last blog post.

I thought that they did not like reading books such as “Ballet Shoes”, “Swallows and Amazons” etc, but Lucy tells me that SHE did. She thinks I have got mixed up with the likes and dislikes of her other siblings. Sorry Lucy!

Maybe, when I think of books liked by an earlier generation, I’m on safer ground if I try and remember more books that I was encouraged to read by my mother and grandmother. My mother loved the E. Nesbitt stories, like “Five Children and It” etc. However, even though this may not please many writers and lovers of these books, I did NOT like them. I took exception to the fact that the big brothers always seemed to lord it over the sisters. I was NOT into male superiority. Maybe because I have a younger brother. . .

I really loved the many stories in the “Dimsie” series. Probably nobody today has heard of them. They were basically boarding-school stories, written in the 1920s. Dimsie was a really kind, interesting girl, whose mother died when she was young.

Dimsie  1920!

My mother absorbed a strange notion of the day, that Enid Blyton books were not “well-written” and she would not let me read them. However, naturally I was intrigued and borrowed them from friends whenever I could and I LOVED them. I had to stay in a cold lavatory to read them and then hide them under the mattress in case they were discovered! I think it is excellent that Enid Blyton stories are still popular today in 2015. Children can graduate from them to “better-written” stories and the enjoyment they derive from her stories is excellent. I have seen children totally engrossed in Enid Blyton stories on the underground, so engrossed that they are almost still reading them as they step off the train.

Our family was partly French and I was encouraged to read French from an early age There was a wonderful picture book about the life of a duck entitled “Plouf le Canard”. This enabled me as I enjoyed the pictures and simple story, to learn about the life story of a duck. It was very vivid and a good lesson in nature study. Then there was a story about a town in France that was flooded – maybe in order to make a dam. I can’t remember the actual details. The book was entitled “La Catherale Engloutie”. It was very dramatic. (Debussy wrote music inspired by this true story.)

I was also encouraged to read longer stories in French. One was “Les Malheures de Sophie”. Sophie was a naughty girl, who went to stay with her too-good-to-be-true- cousins. I liked Sophie!

Also there was an interesting story called “Memoirs d’Un Elephant Blanc”. This story took me to a fascinating country where my uncle lived for over 20 years – India. (Finally we get to something from another culture.)

cover Elephant Blanc  1923    Illustration Elephant Blanc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I felt sorry for my father when I discovered a pile of his children’s books. They were all ‘morality’ tales of the “Good Dan”, “Bad Jack” variety. On the other hand, I believe he was young when many archaeological discoveries were made in Egypt and he had some comics describing all these incredible artefacts. I pored over those comics, as I am sure he did. Those discoveries about a long-hidden culture must have excited people enormously.

A non-book related memory: I remember visiting my great-grandfather when I was a child and being introduced to his grey parrot. Then, some 50 years later I saw the same parrot in a cousin’s house. Obviously he had inherited this interesting bird. There ought to be a story in there somewhere. “What the parrot saw”. . . However I don’t think I’ll be writing that.

grey parrot

Stories about Adoption and Looked-after children. Random Musings. Long live Stories and Art!

I love it when I get feedback from people about the blog. Recently one reader asked whether I have seen the recent list published in The Guardian of 10 best books about adoption? Yes. I have, but as with most people, I can come up with my own favourite books.

My best friend at school was adopted and maybe that is why I was always attracted to stories about children who were looked after by adoptive or foster families.

One thing so amazing about life today in the internet age, is that one can discover so many things and learn so many things. If ONLY we had had this resource long ago, I think we could have found more books on adoption, or indeed more help of any other kind when we were bringing up our children. Today I entered “10 best books on Adoption” into the search engine and several lists came up – very informative.

I am just casting my mind back to some of the stories dealing with looked-after children (adopted/ fostered) that I loved as a child. Here are some:

“Ballet Shoes” by Noel Streatfeild – all 3 ‘Fossil’ children were adopted.

Ballet Shoes         The 3 Fossils

“The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett – Mary’s parents both died

My grandmother used to read me the old story “Little Lord Fauntleroy” and we enjoyed reading it together.   I felt so sorry for little Cedric, as he was not allowed to see his beloved mother.

I enjoyed the stories about the spirited adopted girl “Anne of Green Gables” by Lee Montgomery

 “Heidi” by Johanna Spyri. I felt so sad for her when she had to leave the mountain, her kind grandfather and go and stay in the strange big city.

Heidi

Not all stories interest the next generation. None of the above stories interested our children particularly, although I am sure they would have enjoyed watching some of the modern day films made of the stories e.g. The Secret Garden and Heidi. I have loved watching those with our grandchildren.

The Secret Garden dvd

 

 

 

 

 

Fortunately for this small blog entry, I do remember reading one story about an adopted child to Sam, our older son. He really liked “Thursday’s Child” by Noel Streatfeild. The heroine was another feisty, brave adopted child.

“Nothing is going to stop Margaret Thursday from making her own way in the world – not a horrible orphanage, a cruel matron, or even the fact she was named after the day she was found!” quotation from Amazon.

Dear blog-reader – if you are still reading. Here is a further reflection on stories/books. During my own childhood I so loved a story entitled “Jam Tomorrow” by Monica Redlich. It was published by Thomas Nelson and Sons   and later published in paperback. Two young Canadian cousins had to come over and live in a vicarage with their English cousins because their parents had died. I have never met anyone who read this book. I suppose it must have been reasonably successful to be published in paperback as well as hardback, but I am simply musing over the fact that a work of art can have great value even if it does not hit “the big time”. And certainly it is quite irrelevant whether it “hits big money”.  It is very likely that it will strike a chord with  somebody somewhere.

An author or an artist never really knows all the people who have been touched by their book or their work of art.

This reflection tunes in with something I am reading at present – a collection of letters written by an excellent artist Jan Daum. The letters are dated 1952 – 1957. He thought he had ‘failed’ as he never made much money from his art. However, he was a good friend of my great-aunt and many branches of our family have some of his paintings and they continue to bring great delight to all who look at them.

Jan Daum was born in Indonesia in 1892 and studied in Haarlem and the Royal College of Art in London. I found information about him via Google. He was born well before the Facebook and self-promotion age, but someone somewhere has taken the time to put out information about him on the world wide web. I have always loved his picture below.

Jan Daum's drawing

Long live stories! Long live art!

When something or someone strikes a chord with you and you can feel “proud” + Black History Month.

In today’s blog post I have jumped forward to thinking about today – 2015. I have been reflecting on the various interesting events during Black History Month and wondered what to write.

I know that some people think Black History Month is a bit artificial and it would be better if we could celebrate achievements of black people all the year round. However, I think many of the events planned will be informative, inspirational and enjoyable for all. A specific month ensures that talented black people can be celebrated at least once a year – clearly not enough but better than not at all.

When we were bringing up our boys we tried to expose them to all kinds of literature and artistic events. When they were very young we were delighted to find “Mother Goose Comes to Cable Street”. It was a book of Nursery Rhymes chosen by Rosemary Stones and Andrew Mann and illustrated by Dan Jones. It featured children with a variety of skin tones – something quite rare in those days.

Mother Goose Cable St.

 

 

Tommy T

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also read to our boys poems by John Agard and James Berry.   We felt that they would be interested in the fact that they are black poets. I think they were, although as black British boys they were not familiar with patois, or settings that were 100% Caribbean.

I was certainly impressed when Sam’s school invited Benjamin Zephaniah to talk to the students. He was already a big star and a great success with the teenagers and staff.

Wicked World

Jah’s favourite book for many years was about Black Footballers. Fair enough! Football is one of his great interests.

Black Footballers

I was interested today when the grown-up Jah sounded so pleased that the Jamaican writer Marlon James has won the Man Booker Prize. Something evidently struck a chord with him.

Marlon James     (from Wikipedia)      Novelist

Marlon James is a Jamaican novelist. He has published three novels: The Book of Night Women, John Crow’s Devil and A Brief History of Seven Killings, winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize.

 Jamaican author Marlon James has won the Man Booker Prize for his novel inspired by the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the 1970s.

Michael Wood, chair of the judges, described A Brief History of Seven Killings as the “most exciting” book on the shortlist.

The 680-page epic was “full of surprises” as well as being “very violent” and “full of swearing”.

James was announced as the winner of the £50,000 prize in London on Tuesday.

He is the first Jamaican author to win the Man Booker Prize. Receiving the award, he said a huge part of the novel had been inspired by reggae music.

Even if they don’t read the book “A Brief History of Seven Killings” by Marlon James, I imagine that many people will feel “proud” that a Jamaican writer has won such a prestigious prize.

 

Extra note before the end of the year 2014.

Before I write a New Year’s Monday Morning blog next week, I just want to say “Thank you” to Lenny Henry for his guest-editing of the Today Programme Radio 4, today Tuesday 30th December 2014.

lenny_henryHe highlighted the lack of diversity in the television industry and among writers on television.

Man + TV remoteImage courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A representation of diversity is something that is important to me. I am sure it would have always been so, even if we had not adopted two boys from a Caribbean background. I was very interested to hear that there is no such lack of diversity on the Trading Floors of the City!    More city traders Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The people interviewed by an all minority team, discussed black writers. (Maybe I missed it, but I did not hear anything about children’s literature. I thought Malorie Blackman OBE, Children’s Laureate would receive a mention. Some of her stories have been serialised on children’s TV. I believe that children’s literature is extremely important – NOT an inferior branch of literature. )

MalorieNot only books, but comics – such as Marvel Comics – were mentioned in the course of the programme. Apparently there has been progress in that field. However, as I wrote on Twitter, a mother and son team Patrice and John Aggs would certainly have been worth a mention. They have written exciting graphic novels. I have enjoyed reading “The Boss” with my grandson (published by David Fickling Books). This story features children of many ethnic origins. Since children’s literature is one of my passions, I could also list many other writers but I know that one programme cannot cover everything that one would wish.

Many excellent points were raised during the programme and I salute Lenny Henry! He has highlighted an interesting and important matter.

Back next week for the first Monday blog in the New Year.