A recent Children’s Book Circle meeting focused on the issue of white writer, black characters – a subject intensely argued in the letters column of BfK in 1997 (Nos 105-107). The consensus amongst our correspondents at that time (who included such prominent black writers as James Berry, Errol Lloyd and Jacqueline Roy) was that ‘ethnic origin should not be a barrier’ to producing convincing fiction. However, the further and crucial point was made that there should be ‘familiarity with one’s subject matter’. As Beverley Naidoo put it in her letter: ‘The test of any book is in the reading.’
In this issue of BfK, we discuss two recent novels about racism, one by a black writer and one by a white writer, which appear to demonstrate that there is no room for complacency in this debate. Malorie Blackman’s important new novel, Noughts and Crosses, a powerfully imagined novel about racism with its genesis in the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-apartheid struggle is reviewed on page ??. We also publish Errol Lloyd’s critical discussion of Frances Mary Hendry’s Chains, a novel about the slave trade, which raises important questions about research and historical perspectives in the writing of historical fiction.
This issue of BfK also introduces a new series, Inspiring ‘Reluctant’ Readers, in which two teachers discuss how a particular book inspired a particular young reader in their class. We invite you, our readership, to let us know (in 500 words) about your experiences – whether you are involved with young readers as a teacher, parent, librarian or other carer. We look forward to publishing your accounts.
Finally, a letter to BfK arrived from a reader who describes himself as a ‘newish author’. He continued, ‘I am already invited into schools and libraries to do…well, what, exactly?…I wonder if you’d consider running an article highlighting some of the best practice.’ In response, we have invited Vivian French, an author much demand in schools, to share her practical tips for school visits.