Reflecting Realities Report: Examples of Good Practice - Look Up!
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, we want the books we create to reflect the giant expansive beautiful diverse world we exist within, showing protagonists of different races and not shying away from that and using animals to lead stories all the time.. we wanted LOOK UP to reflect reality e.g that stunning Daps vignette of Rocket getting her hair done by her mum, whilst at the same time showing the surreal as we go into Rockets imagination.
What inspired you to write your book Look Up!?
I was inspired to write Look Up! After going to Hyde Park with my girlfriend to see the Peter Pan statue, on the way my girlfriend kept telling me to LOOK UP! from my mobile phone which I kept looking down and refreshing my emails, instead of seeing all the beautiful things in the park. It was one of the moments were I realised I needed to be more present in life and I did see the amazing Peter Pan statue once I put my phone away! That moment inspired me alot to try encourage myself and others to be more present. That is also why Rocket is such an inspiring character because I want her to affect the readers and inspire them when the truth is I am probably most like Jamal in the book, but I promise you I am getting better, sometimes I even leave my phone at home all day.
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 am dyslexic and have always found reading difficult so if I am honest I don't have a book that I could just wax lyrical about, reading for me is HARD WORK, and only really now do I have alot of patience for it ha! But a couple of the books I LOVED were The Unfortunate Event book series, I really enjoyed that, I liked how dark it was and I remember when I was young feeling really mature reading it. Anything and everything by Malorie Blackman. Most recently I have been loving Jessica Love's work with the Julian series - Julian at the Wedding is her latest one and I just think it is PERFECT.
What are some of the major influences on your work and how do you decide on your subjects?
I always want my books to be uplifting, inspiring and fun, they are the three things I check for in every story by me. YES getting an important message in there is good, but I want the readers to put my book down feeling ready to concur their next challenge or just feel good about themselves or just of had a GREAT BIG LAUGH. I am very influenced by authors like Trish Cook, Malorie Blackman, Laura Henry Allain, Jessica Love who have centred black protagonist in their stories, that is super important to me.
The subjects I generally chose are things that are bugging me in the moment, I generally have a list on my phone of things i'm just thinking about, so Look Up! was a lesson to myself to be more present, to notice things as I was letting life whizz by me, Clean Up! was when I was sat on a beach shocked by how gross it was, instead of moaning I thought I can at least pick up the litter around me to make a small difference.