Beyond the Secret Garden:

Tidings of Comfort and Joy In a seasonal special in the Beyond the Secret Garden series, Darren Chetty and 

Writing the Daily Mail’s ‘Children’s Books for Christmas’ column in 1991, the author Penelope Lively suggested that ‘A book is the most permanent present you can give. Particularly for a child.’ While many end-of-year booklists have become more inclusive November and December remain the biggest time of the year for the promotion and sales of children’s books because of holiday gift-giving. And according to R M Egan writing in The Bookseller, 2020, particularly,

is ‘an extraordinary time for readers’ with

record numbers of books being published in the period between September and December. So, if you are gift-giving for any reason, or refreshing your school, classroom or home library, here are some suggestions that stem from and update our columns from the past year. And, of course, there are several more recommendations for good books for children in those columns, so feel free to look back over our year’s output!

Classic Literature/Classic Mistakes

Classics are always popular gifts for adults to give to children, but as our column from March 2020 suggests, well-meaning gifts of ‘classic’ children’s literature can unwittingly reinforce stereotypes about or erase people of colour. This year, revisionist fairy tales are a good bet for those wanting to give a classic. From Vintage Random House comes two books in their new Fairy Tale Revolution series by authors of colour: Blueblood, a retelling of the ‘Bluebeard’ story by Malorie Blackman, and Kamila Shamsie’s Duckling which revises Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘Ugly Duckling’. Both of these are available in gift editions with illustrations by Laura Barrett. Younger readers will enjoy Zombierella, Joseph Coelho’s gothic take on the classic fairy tale whilst for older readers, Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron from Bloomsbury publishing will provide that link to the classics while at the same time providing empowerment for readers—especially those traditionally left out of or sidelined in classic texts. Fans of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings are likely to enjoy The Challenger by Taran Matharu (Hodder). Set ‘in a world far from our own where enemies come in many forms’, this is the second book in an epic trilogy from the New York Times best- selling author. Aisha Bushby’s Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found (Egmont) features twelve-year-old Amira in a magical middle grade adventure inspired by The Arabian Nights.

Hoorah for Health Workers

In May, as the pandemic worsened, we focused on books depicting racially minoritised health workers. If you want to buy a book that helps those who have been helping us through the pandemic AND that showcases some of the best writers of colour for children, Katharine Rundell’s edited collection The Book of Hopes (Bloomsbury) is a good bet. In a hardback gift edition with part of the proceeds going to NHS charities and with work by authors such as Patience Agbabi, Vashti Hardi, Onjali Q Raùf, S F Said, Nizrana Farook, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Sita Brahmachari, Polly Ho-Yen, Aisha Bushby and Alex Wheatle, there is something to please both readers and gift- givers. Thank You (Frances Lincoln) with words by Joseph Coelho and pictures by Sam Usher is a beautiful picture-book that celebrates community and was inspired by the Thursday Clap for Carers during the first coronavirus lockdown in the Summer of 2020.

Life and Literature in Lockdown

In addition to all the books we plugged in our July 2020 column about authors of colour coping with lockdown and the coronavirus, some additional books have appeared (or will appear before the end of the year) from the authors we featured. These include a lovely book for younger readers welcoming a new addition to the family, Chitra Soundar’s Sona Sharma, Very Best Big Sister (Walker), illustrated by Jen Khatun, and Patrice Lawrence’s Rat (Oxford) for older readers.

The Other Side of the Story

In September we explored the increase in children’s historical books particularly those authored by writers of colour. A number of books have been published in the last few months which highlight British history from a Black British perspective. In addition to David Olusoga’s young reader edition of his popular and important history, Black and British (Macmillan), two reissues indicate the increasing interest in Black history in a year when racism has been on the increase. K N. Chimbiri’s The Story of the Windrush, originally published by Golden Destiny in 2018, has been picked up by Scholastic; and Hakim Adi’s The History of African and Caribbean Communities in Britain has been reissued six years after its original publication by Hachette. Floella Benjamin’s Coming to England has appeared in a

16 Books for Keeps No.245 November 2020

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