News & views

Some events in 2017

Some events in 2017

My winter hibernation ended with visiting a couple of primary schools for the Tower Hamlets’ Library Service creative writing competition This is My Dream.

With the help of Authors Aloud UK, a number of writers have offered workshops in Tower Hamlets as part of a project that explores human rights and that also involves young people in Syria. The Library Sevice aims to publish a dual language English/Arabic book of the children’s writing later this year.

I was also pleased to help launch a book of vivid, moving poems about refugees by children from Greenfield Primary School. Their book grew organically, after a workshop by Karen Argent of the Letterpress Project in which she read from several books about refugees, including The Other Side of Truth. The badge below inspired the evocative name of both workshop and book.

It was lovely meeting these  young writers, their teachers and parents at Newman University in Birmingham. You can read Karen’s account here and see the cover specially drawn by Chris Riddell as well as read the poems here. Meeting students at the university was also a pleasure. They are on a course about ’Working with Children, Young People and Families’ and I loved reading to them as you can see here.

Unicef’s latest report on child refugees is devastating. It is estimated that one in every 45 children in our world today is on the move. The problem is huge but listening to individual stories at least helps us understand more. I am so pleased that Penguin Random House will bring out The Other Side of Truth in its classic Puffin Book edition in July… and with a very powerful cover.

The End Notes for this new edition will include Unicef’s child-friendly version of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I hope readers who find themselves engaged in the lives of my characters Sade and Femi will take their questions beyond the book into life.

With World Book Day behind me, I now intend to focus on a writing project to which I’ll give a small clue. Thank you Sophie Hallam, of Tiny Owl, for the picture below.Whatever is the mysterious figure on the left doing with a notebook at the British Museum…and in which gallery?

I am delighted to have been nominated for this year’s Astrid Lindren Memorial Award.

In late July, a previously unfanfared event of an illustrator from Tehran coming to the Edinburgh Festival suddenly hit the headlines. This was the third year that an illustrator for the brave indie London-based children’s publisher Tiny Owl was denied a visa to attend a literary festival. This year it was the illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi and you can read what happened next here . It’s a story of the power of speaking out with, I’m glad to say, a happy ending.

Tiny Owl quickly organised additional events for children and adults in London. I was delighted to take part in a panel ’Ehsan and Friends’ at the House of Illustration, including James Mayhew (creator of Katie, Ella Bella Ballerina and much else), translator Azita Rassi, Tiny Owl’s co-founder Delaram Ghanimifard and our chair Erica Jarnes.

You can read about our wonderfully lively discussion here . I’m no good at taking ’selfies’ but look what happened when I gave Ehsan my camera after our event! I am flanked by Ehsan on my left and Delaram on my right.

I’m excited that illustrator Marjan Vafaian is currently illustrating my Cinderella on the Nile to be published by Tiny Owl next year. (Yes, that’s why I was spotted taking notes in an Egyptian gallery in the British Museum earlier on by my editor, Sophie Hallam…) We’re all hoping that next year, if Marjan is invited to appear at a literary festival, there’ll be no more talk of visa denials or banning UK audiences from engaging with a respected and talented artist.