Monika Singh Gangotra is the author of Sunflower Sisters, a powerful picture book which tackles colourism in the South Asian community. Here she talks about her own experiences and why it’s important for children to have access to books about difficult topics.
“Colourism is an issue that has followed me throughout my whole life and continues to do so to ALL South Asians in some way. With a deep-rooted history related to colonialism and caste, colourism has become incredibly engrained in the way South Asians view beauty and success. South Asian pop culture is saturated in colourism and our exposure and ideology is incredibly high. As I began to work in the beauty industry, what I was taught to believe about what is beautiful became incongruent with what I saw and felt for myself. And I wanted to create change. I feel social change is incredibly powerful through children and it is our responsibility as adults to help steer them in the direction of love.
This was not the book I was planning on reviewing today. It’s not even a book I was planning to review this week or even this month as I didn’t know it existed until it dropped through my door about an hour ago and made me cry big, ugly, shoulder-shuddering tears. I’m choosing to write about it right now because i’m not sure i’ve ever responded to a picture book this strongly before, and I need to get all the words out before I forget how reading it through for the first time made me feel. I’m not sure I can do it justice – but here goes!
The last 18 months have been incredibly hard for everyone. There has been loss, loneliness, separation, sadness and hardship – but through it all there has been hope that better days are coming. At 5, Ivy is old enough to understand why so many restrictions have been placed on our lives but has still struggled with the fact that so many of the fun things have been stripped away for so long.
June is Pride Month in the UK – the perfect time for the publication of Nen and the Lonely Fisherman, an LGBTQ+ reimagining of The Little Mermaid.
Nen the Merman loves his ocean home but deep down he knows that something is missing. He’s not quite sure what he’s looking for but he starts to explore the world above the waves, singing soulfully of the yearning he feels in his heart.
One day Nen’s song is heard by Ernest, a lonely fisherman, and suddenly everything clicks into place. The two quickly realise they have a very special connection and are filled with a sense of hope for the future.
Right now everything feels very unsettled. We are locked down in our homes, juggling the education of our children with our day jobs, dealing with sorrow and and being faced with a constant barrage of negative news. We’re all just muddling through and taking it one day at a time.
But what will we remember about this strange time in years to come? And perhaps more importantly, what do we want our children to remember?
A love letter from parent to child, this gorgeous picture book adds a sprinkle of magic to what has been a very difficult year. It alludes to the bad but focuses on the good, and in doing so the story of 2020 takes on a wonderful fairytale quality.
We see giant sunflowers and animals running wild on empty streets. We see rainbows shooting from rooftops as families take their daily walks. We see smiling faces as communities come together to celebrate everyday heroes.
The majority of Christmas books focus solely on the good things about the day – family, food, presents – but as parents we know it can actually be quite stressful. There’s so much to think about and for many people Christmas can be tinged with sadness because of an empty chair at the table or the financial strain. 2020 has been awful in so many ways so these issues will no doubt be exacerbated this year.
This is why i’m glad we discovered ‘The Christmas Next Door’. It celebrates the joy of the festive season whilst acknowledging that sometimes things don’t quite go to plan!
When Grandad arrives to spend Christmas with his family everyone is very excited, but he has a few challenges to overcome before the big day arrives. Autistic Lily is anxious about being in the school play, Max is stressed about visiting Santa’s Grotto because he thinks he might be on the naughty list and Mum and Dad are running around trying to get everything prepared.
When a multicultural family set off on an adventure to find a unicorn they don’t expect it to be too hard. After all – a unicorn has a shiny horn, a colourful, swishy tail and it sparkles and glistens all over. Surely they’ll spot one straight away!
As they search a variety of different habitats they spot things which *might* be a unicorn but each one turns out to be a magnificent endangered animal. The creatures they meet include a chameleon, a pangolin, a rhino, a polar bear and a bush baby. But will they ever find a unicorn?
At first glance, Westburrow Wood seems like a friendly place. All the weasels who live there look the same and they all follow the same rules so there is little for them to argue about. But then there is Wesley.
Wesley likes to wear clothes, which is unusual for a weasel, and his clothes are designed to stand out. Wesley thinks nothing of rocking a baseball cap with earmuffs, two watches, a waistcoat, some cowboy boots and a skirt. And why shouldn’t he? They’re just clothes and they’re a fun way of expressing his personality. Wesley thinks being just like everyone else is dull (and we have to admit we agree!).
The problem is that Wesley’s appearance makes the other weasel’s uncomfortable so they decide that something has to be done. They gang up on Wesley and tell him that he’s weird and needs to change.