Reflecting Realities Report: Examples of Good Practice - High-Rise Mystery

Published on: 
Tuesday, 17 November 2020 - 10:05am
Sharna Jackson

Our Reflecting Realities report is an annual survey that reviews the quality and extent of ethnic minority presence in children’s literature published in the UK. In each report we provide data and analysis of the books produced and consider the extent to which the books reflect the realities, as well as, broaden the outlook of their readership. We address the shortfalls of poor portrayals and highlight examples of great books we encounter as part of the review process. This year’s report celebrates your book as an example of a high quality inclusive and representative book... 

What does the term Reflecting Realities mean to you?

Reflecting Realities means exactly that. Ensuring that our imagined stories – regardless of genre and theme – include a diverse range of children who are living in our real world.


What inspired you to write your book High-Rise Mystery

Loving murder mysteries and wanting to see young black girls represented in books where they are being funny, smart and clever. 

My mother was obsessed with Sherlock Holmes (particularly Jeremy Brett’s portrayal) so I had early exposure to the genre. We liked a lot of noir – I wrote a short film script called Investigating Eternity when I was 16. The twists and turns, chicanery and all-out scammery of murder mysteries are thrilling. Transposing those conventions to new contexts and types of writing, re-appropriating that Edwardian world into contemporary contexts was a fun and interesting process. Murder mystery is basically a game that can be played and written in new ways.


Was there a particularly memorable book that shaped your early reading experiences and set you on your reading journey? What was it about this particular title(s) that appealed to you?

I loved The Runaway’s by Ruth Thomas. The story follows two unpopular eleven-year-olds, Nathan Browne and Julia Winter. After they find A Lot of Money in an abandoned house in east London – which raises suspicions as they buy their way into the good books of the other children in their class – the duo run away from their homes and venture to Brighton and beyond, escaping perceived threats from the police – and their parents. The hijinx and the characters they meet along the way are revealing and funny, but it’s the growing begrudging respect, care and empathy that develops between Julia and Nathan, two very different children, that makes this book so special. That really appealed to me and is something I’d love to explore in my books.


What are some of the major influences on your work and how do you decide on your subjects?

I want to tell real, contemporary adventure with young black children where they show determination, grit and personality. In honesty, I’m influenced and inspired by myriad sources – art, games, people, food.


Finally, do you have any new titles or books in development aimed at a primary audience that you can tell us about? 

I’m working away on a few books at the moment, but none I can talk about…yet! Watch this space!



Sharna Jackson is an author, her book High-Rise Mystery is showcased in our Reflecting Realities report as an example of good practice from the 2019 output. Find out more about Sharna Jackson..