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.
Stella has two dads. This has never been an issue but when her teacher announces they’re going to be throwing a special Mother’s Day party she finds herself in a bit of a pickle. She doesn’t have a mum so who is she supposed to invite?
As the other children play, Stella finds herself worrying about the party. She can’t concentrate on anything and she doesn’t want to eat. She doesn’t know how to explain that she doesn’t have a mum to bring to the party.
Eventually her friends ask her what the matter is and she tries to explain. The children are surprised and they have lots of questions. If she doesn’t have a mum then who makes her packed lunch? Who reads her a bedtime story? Who gives her kisses when she hurts herself? Stella explains that her two dads do all of these things for her and more. Plus she has Nonna, Aunt Gloria, Uncle Bruno and Cousin Lucy. She has a whole host of people who love her – but she still doesn’t have a guest for the Mother’s day party.
When Pearl discovers that there’s going to be a new girl called Matilda in her class she gets very excited. She can’t find wait to find out what she’s like! She watches Matilda say goodbye to her dad and over the course of the day they become firm friends. Together they climb trees, run around the playground and jump in muddy puddles.
But then the next day Pearl spots something interesting. When Matilda’s dad drops her off at school, it’s a completely different dad. How can she have two dads? Confused, Pearl starts to ask her new friend lots of questions. Matilda explains that a family doesn’t necessarily mean having one mum and one dad, and she has two dads who love each other.
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?
Eve is very close to her two mummies, so when baby Stanley joins the family she isn’t quite sure what to expect. She hopes that he’ll play with her and share her love of trains, but she knows that babies cry a lot and she’s not looking forward to the dirty nappies!
The path they tread will be a familiar one for many parents of more than one child. Eve is initially excited about the new baby but this quickly turns to resentment as Stanley gets lots of attention for things she doesn’t deem that interesting. He can’t talk, he can’t play and he messes with her train set all the time. Eve decides that there’s only one thing for it – Stanley will have to go back to wherever he came from so that she can have her mummies back!
Then one day, Eve throws a ball and everything changes. Stanley wobbles towards it on uncertain legs, picks it up and returns it. A game! As Stanley’s ability to interact with the world grows, Eve realises that maybe there’s room in this family (and her heart) for a little brother after all.
We adore this little book which teaches children colours whilst celebrating diversity and unconditional love.
The gentle rhyme encourages kids to step out in to the sun and be exactly who they are, safe in the knowledge that their families will always love them. The accompanying pictures show happy children from around the world, along with photographs of families with same sex parents.
We are introduced to the colours from the Pride flag, and a special section at the back tells you about Pride Day and the special significance of each colour.
This is a sturdy board book which means it’s perfect for even the littlest libraries and the use of colour and real photos is really engaging.
You may remember that last year we got very excited about a book called The Steves which featured two puffins arguing over the fact they share a name. Ivy loved it (and still does!) so I was over the moon to spot that the Author, Morag Hood, has just released something new.
Aalfred and Aalbert are two aardvarks who are absolutely perfect for each other but, despite being neighbours, they have never actually met. This is because Aalbert sleeps at night and Aalfred sleeps all day. Both long for companionship but don’t realise that what they are looking for is right under their nose.
Unbeknown to them, a tiny blue bird has been observing their coming and goings and decides to play matchmaker. He hatches a number of elaborate plans involving alarm clocks, broccoli and balls of red string but nothing seems to work.
There are so many reasons to love this magical and unique story, not least because it’s the first children’s book I have encountered which features a non-binary character using they/them/their pronouns.
From the moment they are born, little Miu-Lan is different to other children. Neither boy or girl, they are are a magical being able to shape shift at their will from one fantastical creature to another. Miu-Lan changes their appearance at will to reflect how they are feeling – one day they may soar through the skies with wings and feathers and the next have scales and a tail to swim through the ocean. Supported by their amazing mother who encourages them to be whoever they want whenever they want, Miu-Lan is happy.