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.
We started thinking about making books when we had our first child. At the time we diligently searched for books that feature diverse families as main characters. And we just didn’t find that much out there. Interestingly we found there are countless Facebook and Mumsnet posts asking the same sorts of questions: Where can I find books about Black people, LGBT+ families, disabled people?
In 2019 a paltry 7% of books featured a BAME character and just 4% of protagonists in children’s books were BAME. In contrast, 32% of school children in England come from BAME backgrounds. That was the year we launched. We wrote Buddy’s Pancakes while strolling round the park trying to get our littlest to sleep.
And it’s not just people of colour who are missing from the bookshelf. So are LGBT+ characters and families. In June 2019, horrified by protests outside schools in Birmingham for teaching children about the existence of homosexuality we launched the No Outsiders campaign where backers can buy the picture book: Eve’s New Brother, featuring a same-sex couple – and gift it to a school.
Ofsted states that “Children need to know that some people have two mummies or two daddies”. Parakeet Books believes education can build bridges, saying: “It’s normal. We think every school should have a copy of Eve’s New Brother so that every child can learn about every kind of person, every kind of love, every kind of family.”
Our advice to anyone who wants to lobby the big guy publishers is this: buy our books (please) tag us and them on social media saying “Look at this. Do better”. Buy from booksellers that specialise and champion diverse books. We recommend This is Book Love and Little Box of Books
Judy Skidmore & Sheju Adiyatiparambil-John, Founders, Parakeet Books
Visit their website here: https://www.parakeetbooks.com/