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and at first, Kite feels that the Lake District “belonged to a different country and time” (104) than her. By the end of the novel, however, she can declare to a white English boy, “You know, you stared at me like this on the first day I met you . . . If it was because you thought I was a foreigner, you were wrong! It turns out I’m just as much a part of this place as you!” (307).


Recent books for younger readers have also begun opening spaces outside cities to BAME characters, but the compromises that (white) authors make to bring those characters there bear consideration. Helen Peters’ A Piglet Called Truffle (2016) is the first in an engaging middle-grade series, each of them featuring a different farm animal as cover illustration. The main human character, Jasmine Green, lives with her veterinarian mother, her farmer father and her brother Manu. Ellie Snowden’s illustrations depict Jasmine with skin darker than her friends; Peters has stated she envisaged Jasmine’s mum as British Indian and her dad as white British. The stories focus on animal rescue and it can be refreshing to have a BAME protagonist whose life-story does not include racism. Yet Jasmine never graces the covers of the books, and it feels strange that her family never mention connections to India. A pessimistic reading of these books is that silence about one’s otherness is necessary for BAME families who move to the English countryside. We wonder how (or if) children read Jasmine’s background. The series tries to normalise BAME children as part of the English countryside but does so whilst de-emphasising the BAME child’s heritage to the point of near-imperceptibility.


Picture books offer younger readers garden images in different ways. Hello Oscar (2012), part of the Zoe and Beans series by Chloë and Mick Inkpen, depicts a whole range of increasingly exotic creatures – a guinea pig, a tortoise, a chameleon, a parrot – finding their way into Zoe’s garden, before brown-skinned Oscar manages to crawl into it through a hole in the fence. The image of a brown- skinned child as the last in a line of exotic interlopers into Zoe’s


garden suggests that the BAME character is still seen as an outsider. However, Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw’s Lulu, in Lulu Loves Flowers (2017), does not need to struggle to enter a garden. With her parents’ help, she researches gardens, plants seeds, and cultivates the plants. At harvest, she invites her multiracial friends to savour the garden’s delights. The story begins with Lulu reading the poem Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary. As the garden grows she continually revises the nursery rhyme; she is sufficiently at home with it that she can remix it, with a Mary that looks more like her. The final page has a poem about ‘Lulu, Lulu, extraordinary’. We see no walls around Lulu’s garden, where everyone is welcome to grow.


Kite Spirit, Sita Brahmachari, Macmillan Children’s Books, 978-0330517928, £6.99 pbk A Piglet Called Truffle, Helen Peters, Nosy Crow, 978-0857637734, £5.99 pbk Zoe and Beans: Hello Oscar, Chloe Inkpen, Mick Inkpen, Macmillan Children’s Books, 978-1447210269, £5.99 pbk Lulu Loves Flowers, Anna McQuinn, Rosalind Beardshaw, Alanna Books, 978-1907825125, £6.99 pbk


Karen Sands-O’Connor is professor of English at SUNY Buffalo State in New York. She has, as Leverhulme Visiting Professor at Newcastle University, worked with Seven Stories, the National Centre for the Children’s Book, and has recently published Children’s Publishing and Black Britain 1965- 2015 (Palgrave Macmillan 2017).


Darren Chetty is a teacher, doctoral researcher and writer with research interests in education, philosophy, racism, children’s literature and hip hop culture. He is a contributor to The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla and published by Unbound, and tweets at @rapclassroom


Books for Keeps No.229 March 2018 13


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