by Ken Wilson-Max
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?
When I leave my apartment I see many people from different parts of the world within a few mins of walking. When I travel to other places, I am the different person that others see in their neighbourhoods. I know what its like to see and be seen to have my own reality played back to me. Whether I create books Ken Wilson-max or publish books as Alanna Max the main thing I am aiming for is Reflecting the Realities of all children and their families.
What inspired you to write your book Astro Girl?
I wanted to do something to honour the women in my life, my mum, gran, aunties and family friends who raised me. I also wanted to make a string statement about goals, dreams and gender stereotypes because I have a daughter who I believe will achieve great things should she choose to. So, I took one of the most male ideas I could think of – the hero- and did my best to dismantle it.
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 wasn’t very into books as a child, mainly because we had a backyard and plenty of things to do in the sun and the fact that reading was hardly ever for pleasure- only for education. But we also had stories told to us, or we had to make up our own. I may not have been into books, but I was very much into stories. when I finally got to reading for pleasure the most enjoyable and memorable book was Jules Verne’s ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ and Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda’.
What are some of the major influences on your work and how do you decide on your subjects?
Travel influences my work a great deal. It allows me to both observe and reflect in the best possible way, and often makes it easier to imagine what life is like in someone else’s shoes. Impressionist art is also a huge influence and I like to visit galleries whenever I have the chance. But people are the biggest influence. I really enjoy watching the little scenarios that play out in daily life and them making sketches to record them for use later.
Finally, do you have any new titles or books in development aimed at a primary audience that you can tell us about?
Following the success of Astro Girl we have been exploring possible storylines for second book. It’s a difficult one to try to follow but some interesting ideas are emerging. Then there are two new Lenny books that are almost ready to print and a recently finished poetry book with Valerie Bloom for Otter-Barry Books. Apart from that I’ve been illustrating comics strip stories for the wonderful Scoop Magazine since the spring. These are for older readers and very satisfying to do.
Ken Wilson-Max is an author and illustrator, he has kindly let us use his illustrations in the third Reflecting Realities report. His book Astro Girl (Otter-Barry Books) is also showcased in the report as an example of good practice from the 2019 output. Find out more about this high-quality book...