A Taste of a Wider Heritage
Fifteen books chosen by Ruth Ballin, Jean Bleach and Josie Levine from their new NBL booklist.
The list covers the age range 5 to16 years and makes suggestions for parents, teachers and librarians for choosing books across a wide range of situations. Titles are entered under the following headings: infant junior, junior-secondary, and secondary. The latter with these sub-headings: general, in the experience of the children, reggae, rasta and black consciousness, Caribbean writing, African writing, South Africa, slavery. It also contains details of other sources of information.
Margaret Kid, Children’s Book Trust, New Delhi (available from Soma), 1977, 40p
Ashok and Sona, his sister, play outside, shoo the cow away, and fly his favourite green kite. The pictures are bright, the story is brief. For the infant class library and for early readers. (Details of Marilyn Hirsh’s pictures on this, page).
When Shoes Eat Socks
Barbara Klimowitz, Abingdon Press (available through New Beacon), 0 687 450918
The consequences for Barnaby, in his daily life, of socks that won’t stay up, and disappear into his shoes, are related in this book with humorous sympathy. Both infants and juniors enjoy having this book read to them, and it is much revisited as a picture book in a classroom library.
The Drinking Gourd
F N Monjo, World’s Work, 1971, 0 437 90072 X, £2.50
This is both a simple account of the underground railroad and also a really good read. As a narrative of a slave escaping to the North, it is worth reading aloud. It ends on a thorough-going white liberal note, and so is a starting point for exploring the ways in which Black Americans have acted and still act for themselves. An essential volume for any junior classroom collection.
Philip Hall likes me, I reckon, maybe
Bette Greene, Puffin, 1979, 0 14 03.1057 6, 75p
At school Beth always lets Philip beat her. Eventually, they become real friends of equal standing. This novel is an enjoyable private read for competent top juniors and lower secondary pupils.
The Call of the Fledgling and Other Children’s Stories
Jan Hao, Foreign Language Press, Peking, (available from Guanghwa Bookshop), 1974, 50p
These five stories about children in Northern China show the importance of communal effort in farming, especially in countries where machinery is short. The universal value of the stories allows children here to take on some of the realities of developing countries. For top junior and lower secondary pupils. Reads aloud quite well.
Ostrich Egg-shell Canteen
Musa Nagenda, Heinemann Educational, 1973, 0 435 92507 5, 75p
Do not be fooled by the format of this book. This relatively short story is as exciting an adventure story as ten to thirteen-years-olds could wish for. Moreover, it is unselfconsciously anti-sexist. A girl and her grandmother are the heroes; both are likeable, tough, believable women who challenge the customs of their Kalahari tribe.
A Ramachandran, A & C Black, 1979, 0 7136 1923 6, £3.25
A simple, powerful retelling of a story from the Ramayana with vivid stylised pictures on every page. The combination makes a brilliant picture book for all ages.
Monkey Subdues the White-bone Demon
Wang Hsing-pei, Foreign Language Press, Peking, (available from Guanghwa Bookshop), 1976, 75p
A picture book with caption text. After many exciting escapades, including a tight to the death with Demon, Monkey emerges victorious and vindicated. The intrinsic charm of the legend, the strong story line, and the detailed illustrations overcome the mixed quality of the text for most children of upper junior and lower secondary age. It is a good transition book for inexperienced readers.
East End at Your Feet
Farrukh Dhondy, Macmillan (Topliners), 1976, 0 333 19962 6, 65p
Biting, no-holds-barred stories of Bangladeshi youth firmly living their lives in London. Defiant stories, with spirited characters who proclaim ‘I’m here’ to the racist society which surrounds them. For second to fifth years in secondary schools.
The Slave Dancer
Paula Fox, Macmillan, 1974, 0 333 16645 0, £2.95
A young white boy living in New Orleans is kidnapped by slavers for work on board a slave ship. His task is to provide music for exercising the slaves. It is a gruesome business, and no book captures better the hideousness of the slaves’ plight in the Middle Passage. For second and third years in secondary schools who read well.
Mohammed Elbaja, English Centre, (available from ILEA English Centre), 1978, 20p
Simple, moving, graphic, this is the story of a Moroccan family divided by work and migration, and of the bonds maintained nonetheless. The booklet is total proof, to anyone needing it, that a person can write with power and conviction while still inexperienced in using a language other than his/her mother tongue. Mohammed Elbaja came from Morocco and was learning to speak English when he wrote this. For second years upwards in secondary schools.
At School Today
Accabre Huntley, Bogle L’Ouverture, 1977, 0 904521 11 7, £1.00
A collection of accomplished poems written by a young black girl still at primary school. Her reflections on and her confident statements of her own blackness help children to expand their consciousness about being black. For top primary and lower secondary children.
The Real Life of Domingos Xavier
Jose Luandino Viera, Heinemann Educational, 1978, 0 435 90202 4, 95p
This remarkable book, written in the sixties and published only in 1974, is set in the Angola of 1960. It portrays the horror of colonialisation in Africa, and of the heroism of those who are secretly joining together to resist it. For fifth-year pupils and upwards in secondary schools.
The Soweto I Love
Sipho Sepamla, Rex Collings, 1977, 0 86036 0652, £1.50
The poems in this collection take a reader into Soweto and, from them, one does not merely understand what it was/is like, but also why it was/is that way. There is no compromise. The poems simply and directly present a hardly bearable picture and capture the mood of the people of Soweto.
Long Journey Home
Julius Lester, Longman (Knockout), 1978, 0 582 22277 X, 75p, Puffin, 1977, 0 14 03.0903 9, 70p
Outstanding short stories set during and after slavery. They are both harsh and moving, and read aloud extremely well. Long Journey Home is essential reading for individuals doing work on a slavery theme but is also literature in its own right. For children from second years upwards in secondary schools and selectively, where mediated by an adult, in upper primary class( too.
A Wider Heritage: a selection of books for children and young people in multicultural Britain is available from the National Book League, Book House, 45 East Hill, London SW18 2HZ, £1.80 (non-members), £1.50 (members). A touring exhibition of the books listed in the bibliography is also available. Information from the Touring Exhibition Officer at the National Book League.
Footnote For details of how to obtain these and other multi-cultural books see page 32.