Sulwe

Sulwe
Lupita Nyong’o and Vashti Harrison
Puffin Books

You’ll surely be awed by the sheer beauty of the illustrations in this wonderful book.

It tells of young Sulwe (her name means star in the Kenyan Luo language) who was ‘born the colour of midnight.’ Her skin is darker than anyone else in her multi-hued family and when children at school call her names, Sulwe decides to lighten her skin. Nothing she tries, however, makes any difference,

and next morning her mother talks to her of her inner brightness and beauty; still though Sulwe isn’t convinced:

how can she be a star, she wonders.

That same night on a magical journey she discovers a fable wherein two sisters Night and Day get very different reactions from people, those towards Day are positive while Night receives negative ones. As a result she leaves the earth taking with her dreams and secrets, until her sister’s “we need you just the way you are” persuades her to return.

Now Sulwe understands that she too is “Dark and beautiful, bright and strong.’

This is a debut picture book for Kenyan actor/producer Lupita Nyong’o who based the story on her own childhood experience. She confronts the crucial and sensitive topic of skin colour head on, but in a way that young children can relate to. (I recall being extremely distressed when I first started teaching to find a 5- year old boy from Nigeria covering his arms with white chalk. He told me that he was trying to get his skin light like his friends. Nothing I said could persuade him that he was just perfect as he was.) Vashti Harrison wonderful illustrations are a celebration of all skin tones reinforcing Lupita’s message that everyone, like Sulwe, is uniquely beautiful, inside and out.

A must have book for all primary schools.

Hair Love

Hair Love
Matthew A.Cherry and Vashti Harrison
Puffin Books

‘A celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere’ says a line on the cover of this book but it’s much more than that. It’s also a celebration of individuality, perseverance, collaboration, and a loving family.

Young Zuri’s hair is a mass of curls; her dad calls it beautiful and this makes the little girl proud. It lets her be herself as it ‘kinks, coils and curls every which way’, no matter if she feels like being a princess or a superhero.

On this particular day though, Zuri needs a very special hairstyle but she knows her Daddy is particularly tired after having undertaken the whole responsibility for her care. Deciding he needs a break, the child allows him some extra sleep while she investigates styles on a tablet. Her good intentions however are thwarted;

he’s woken up and ready and willing to assist.

Dad tackles the job confidently but comes up with a series of hairstyles that just don’t work for Zuri, as we see in Vashti Harrison’s splendidly expressive digital illustrations and hear through debut author Matthew Cherry’s apt narrative,

until the dutiful dad pulls a bobble hat down over her eyes.

Zuri’s “We can do better than that” response however sees the two working together, she providing encouragement and an on-screen lesson, he collecting the tools and developing his artistry until finally … Success! ‘Funky puff buns’ that satisfy everyone …

Our little girl is ready just in the nick of time for a very important ‘welcome home’ celebration.

Just right for an early years storytime and for family sharing, this is a smashing book that knocks gender stereotypes out of the window as well as reinforcing the ‘be proud of who you are’ message.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
Vashti Harrison
Puffin Books

Here’s a terrific book that celebrates 40 amazing black women some from the past, some from the present and each a trailblazer.

Artist and film maker, Vashti Harrison has penned brief biographies of a splendidly diverse selection of dauntless, boundary breaking females who have contributed to making society what it is today.

In addition to the famous such as Mary Seacole, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Mahalia Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Coleman and Diane Abbott, there are some lesser known women including social psychologist and counsellor Mamie Phipps Clark, science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler, scientist and medical researcher Alice Ball and NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson who are in their own ways, equally inspiring.

Katherine Johnson

No book on women’s achievements would be complete without sport and representing athletics are sprinters Wilma Rudolph and Florence Joyner (who also developed a clothing brand, wrote children’s books and established a youth foundation), and heptathlete and javelin thrower, Tessa Sanderson.

Tessa Sanderson

All these and the other women herein are truly inspirational and Harrison has done them proud, both through her engaging text and her beautiful illustrations.

Seaman William Brown – the first black female to serve in the British Navy

Brave, bold, world changers they most certainly are.

A book to put into primary classrooms, secondary school libraries, to buy for families, and to share and discuss wherever and whenever you can – I certainly intend to.

I’ve signed the charter