Established in early 2020, Formy Books is an independent family-run publisher, with a passion for own voices children’s books. Formy Books is dedicated to delivering striking children’s books by Black creators from across the diaspora.
Here, Co-Founder Ebony Lyon reflects on the importance of accurate representation in children’s books and tells us how Formy Books seeks to positively depict the richness of Black culture in the stories which they publish.
“Children need to see themselves reflected back from the books they read, yes. However we must ensure that the reflections are accurate, not distorted.
In her seminal essay, Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Doors, Rudine Sims Bishop Stated “When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a valuable lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part.”
It has always been important to me that we have a diverse bookshelf at home. The books we read feature different races, different religions and different types of families because I want Ivy to grow up knowing that everybody’s life is important and valid.
However recent events have taught me that this is not enough. Teaching her to be kind is not enough. Teaching her to be aware of racism is not enough. Unless we actively teach our children to be anti-racist things won’t change.
For us, one of the steps in this process has been reading this excellent picture book from Ibram X. Kendi, who is the Director of the Centre for Antiracist Research at Boston University.
We’re the Parakeet Books team: Sheju and Judy. Fed up with the same old books on offer to our own children we started to make our own. We’ve been making inclusive and diverse books for the last two years. Our vibrant, warm and entertaining stories are told through underrepresented groups – central characters who are BAME, people of colour, female or LGBT+.
Having read in cafes and schools we always find that children either don’t notice difference or they love it. The two mums in our book, Eve’s New Brother, never get questioned by our audiences, they just accept that family for what it is. But the relationship between Eve and her brother has them enthralled. In Buddy’s Pancakes they kids afterwards all want to talk about pancakes, in the Mysterious Dinosaurs of Crystal Palace they all want to talk about guess what… dinosaurs. The idea that kids books with main characters who are Black or have a disability or have same-sex parents are niche is totally bogus. It’s an adult assumption and cannot be dressed up as anything other than prejudice. The mainstream publishing world is too slow to change and now is the time for them to pick their feet up and catch up with what readers want.
Being a King can be a lonely job, especially if you live in a castle on a plain surrounded by mountains. The monarch in this story dreams of moving to a beautiful island, but the mountains around him are so high that he can’t even tell which way the sea is!
His Adviser is too busy to help him so instead he asks the people of his kingdom to build a tower that is tall enough to see the ocean. The farmers build a tower of bricks, the soldiers build a tower of steel, the cheese makers build a tower of cheese and the ice-cream sellers make a tower which looks like a giant cone. Even the shoemakers get involved, building a giant boot that reaches up to the sky!
GoGo RoRo is very excited about her upcoming birthday so when she overhears Abuela* Rosa and her brother Jean Bean discussing gifts, she presumes they are talking about her presents. Overwhelmed by curiosity, she asks for some clues but Abuela Rosa cryptically tells her that she will have to find her gifts herself.
GoGo RoRo and Jean Bean search everywhere for the birthday presents but they are nowhere to be found. Where on earth could their grandmother have hidden them?
When Abuela Rosa sees the mess they have made she is very disappointed and GoGo RoRo hangs her head in shame. She was just so excited about finding her gifts. But what if her gifts aren’t material goods at all? What if her grandmother simply wants her to find the gifts she was born with?
Felix loves to wear skirts. He likes how they feel, how they spin, and he particularly likes the fact they mean he can run faster and climb more easily. Felix borrows them from his older sister and his supportive mum even takes him to buy one of his own.
When Felix starts school he’s really excited about the prospect of wearing his new skirt but his parents aren’t so keen. They are worried that the other children won’t understand and that he will be bullied. However after a few days they finally relent and Felix is very excited about showing his outfit to his friends.
However all does not go well at the school gates where he is met with laughter and confusion. His friends tell him he looks like a girl and even the other parents whisper to each other that it just isn’t right. Felix has a very sad day at school and doesn’t understand why everyone just points and laughs. Girls can wear trousers, so why can’t boys wear skirts?
This gorgeous book celebrates the love, warmth and mayhem of a family home. The story follows a family of four as they take us on a tour of each of the rooms in their house.
First up is the kitchen where they bake, dance, sing and make a mess. Then we see the dining room where they eat, pretend to be pirates and tickle their parents feet under the table. The living room is for relaxing and getting things off your chest, whilst the bathroom is for washing and pulling funny faces in the mirror.
The richly worded rhyme and the warm illustrations show us love, laughter and tears against a familiar backdrop of toys, washing up and teetering piles of books.
Lola the rabbit loves her art lessons at school. The splashing and sploshing of paint completely consumes her, until the bell rings for playtime and her happiness comes crashing down.
Lola is autistic and has a demand avoidant profile. This means she does not like loud noises or being told to stop an activity without any warning. As the children crash and bang around Lola becomes increasingly distressed.
Outside in the playground her discomfort continues. She doesn’t know how to join in with the other children and is scared of being rejected if she does something wrong.
As parents we naturally want to shield our children from sadness but it’s an important topic to touch on if we want to raise resilient future adults. There are now lots of titles on the market which feature loss or difficult goodbyes, but all too often we only seek them out in times of need. This beautiful book from Corrinne Averiss is an excellent addition to a child’s bookshelf as it gently weaves the subject in to a wonderful bedtime story.
A little girl finds a fallen star and gently nurses him back to health. She cleans him, feeds him and takes the time to learn all about her new friend. When he starts to get better she wants him to play but understands that he is a little different to her. He sleeps in the day and isn’t interested in toys but they soon find ways to just enjoy each others company.
Picking the right pet can be hard. There are so many different animals out there so how are you supposed to choose? The little boy in this story thinks he has the perfect solution. When his mum and dad finally agree to let him have one he places an advert in the local paper asking for possible pets to get in touch.
He receives some promising replies from a pampered pussy cat, a forgetful goldfish and an extremely nibbly goat, but none of them seem quite right. But then the next day he is inundated with post. Gorillas, wolves, horses, emus, bulls and even ants have all written to him in the hope of finding a new home. Now he has so many options that he doesn’t know where to begin!
Things go from bad to worse when animals start turning up at his house. A mob of meerkats set up a security post and won’t let the family leave the house for their own safety and then some beavers arrive and start building a water feature in the garden!