Race Cars

Race Cars
Jenny Devenny ed. Charnaie Gordan
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

This book, is the result of a collaboration between author/illustrator Jenny Devenny who uses the metaphor of a car race to introduce institutional and systemic racism to children, and diversity and inclusion expert, Charnaie Gordon who edited the story. (Both have written an introductory note).

Meet best friends Chase and Ace. Chase is a black race car; Ace a white race car and they both love racing. Chase is super speedy and in his first year of entering, becomes the very first black car ever to win the ‘world-famous, annual race-car race.’ To his Ace friend who finishes fourth , it matters not: place is unimportant. However the race committee (all except the youngest, pink-tyred Grace, being white male autos) are anything but happy and resolve to alter some of the rules in favour of the white cars, thus disadvantaging the other cars in future races.

The route change they introduce for non-white cars

enables Ace to win the next race the following year and in the subsequent one, an official stops Chase before he enters the magic forest, demanding to be shown his ID. These two demonstrations of blatant discrimination result in Chase failing to qualify for the next year’s race. Now Ace starts to think perhaps something isn’t right: but even worse, Chase now feels inferior.

At a further committee meeting, Grace quietly talks of making the race ‘fair and equal for all’, but only one or two others agree, while the rest, fearing change, keep quiet.

The following year Chase is there spectating and supporting his friend who starts off at super speed. But as Ace approaches the magic forest, he notices something he’d not previously been aware of

and decides to take the route intended for non-white cars. Consequently he gets lost.

Back at the track the committee are worried about their star race car Ace not having crossed the line. Now, Grace knows she must speak out and so she does, with the result that Chase agrees to search for his friend … and finally they finish the race together.

Designed to be accessible to a young audience, and intended as a starting point for opening up discussion, this book has been engineered to tackle a difficult and sensitive topic. To this end there are discussion notes after the story. Almost every time I turn on the news I hear something alarming and upsetting concerning the ill-treatment of a person or persons of colour, so it’s clear that opportunities such as this book offer to get children talking are much needed.