Random thoughts from an accidental publisher
Just a quick one - equally saddened and delighted to read Mylo Freeman's piece in The Guardian today.
Delighted because I'm glad she found an original Dutch publisher and now one based in the UK for her wonderful Arabella series. Saddened that there are still so few Black princesses in picture books.
The Arabella series published by Cassava Republic
Saddened also at the reaction her original publishers got from American publishers who it seems thought readers would be offended by her 'uncombed' (I would say natural) hair.
Luckily not all American publishers think like this.
Like Mylo, who wrote her first Arabella book in 2006, I also wrote the first Lulu book in 2006 (what a fantastic year that was)! I was blessed to find a US publisher who fell in love with Lulu and published her - 'uncombed' hair and all.
My wonderful friend and colleague, Marijn Woudstra also published her in Holland where she is called Bibi (it alliterates with Bieb).
She didn't have any issues with her hair - in bunches or natural:
In the second title, Lulu is inspired by the books she reads to be lots of different things - a farmer, a mommy, a builder, a tiger AND a princess:
I read Mylo Freeman's piece this morning along with some emails including one from Karen Argent. I'd sent her a copy of Zeki Loves Baby Club to review and she'd road-tested it with her granddaughter, dropping me a personal note to say she'd loved it.
Today, she emailed to say the little girl is a bit older and had moved on to Lulu Loves Flowers.
No words are needed to explain why these books are necessary - you can see it in the little girl's delight AND her growing love of books.
It is well documented that children need to see people like themselves in stories in order to be motivated to read - especially to read for pleasure.
And just as it is vital for little girls like this to see themselves in the pages of children's literature, it is also important for little white kids to see Black children in literature and to learn that everyone has a right to star in their own story.
Wishing Cassava Republic and Mylo Freeman the best - I hope Arabella is a roaring success.
I hope the success and longevity of these two series show just how wrong those publishers and booksellers are who claim that diverse books 'just don't sell' or that white parents are put off by black characters. Lulu and Arabella are celebrating 10 years this year - now that's a successful story!