News & views

Some highlights from 2010

At the end of last year, I joined the End Child Detention Now campaign. Nearly 70 children’s authors and illustrators signed a letter of protest calling on the government to stop keeping child asylum-seekers in prison conditions. Karin Littlewood (who illustrated Baba’s Gift) and I visited Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre for a storytelling session with some of the young people detained there. Click here to read about our experience. It’s not something I shall forget. This shameful practice should be stopped.

The year ahead is already looking busy. Here are a few reasons why…

  • I shall be at the Guardian Hay Festival Segovia in Spain 24-26 September and look forward to meeting Spanish audiences.
  • I shall be storytelling and talking with readers in Hackney, London, in this year’s Starlit Festival
  • Journey to Jo’burg will celebrate its 25th anniversary. It was first published in 1985 in the UK. On 23 April 2010, Canon Collins Trust, with whom I share the royalties, is holding an event at the London School of Oriental and African Studies to look at the journey of this little book that was originally banned in apartheid South Africa. Michael Rosen will also discuss with a panel of South African writers the power of books to open young readers’ eyes, in the past as well as now. Below is a copy of the letter (22 May 1985) telling my sister-in-law that the copies of Journey to Jo’burg that I had sent to my nieces and nephews had been ‘seized’.

Below are some of the different covers of the book over the years in different countries. You can see the latest covers for the UK trade and educational editions on my Journey to Jo’burg web page.

  • South Africa is the focus of this year’s London Book Fair in April so an unusual number of writers from South Africa will be in London. I am one of the writers who doesn’t have to travel quite so far! I’m hoping that one event will celebrate the special ‘New Generations’ Issue 60 of Wasafiri that I guest edited with my South African writer friend Shereen Pandit. Although we were brought up in separate worlds under apartheid, books were one of the ways in which we crossed boundaries. Our issue includes 13 international writers and illustrators of children’s books remembering what they read when they were young. The most heart-breaking memory is from Benjamin Zephaniah. But it’s also the most heartening since he went on to become a writer.

  • The Other Side of Truth is on a national syllabus for students of English in France and I shall be visiting students at the Lycée J B de la Salle in Rouen in May. They have a wonderfully dedicated teacher who is very persuasive and has organised a very interesting programme. I shall also be talking to other students in the region .
  • S is for South Africa comes out on 1 June (published by Frances Lincoln). I’ve written 26 short poems to accompany photos by Prodeepta Das that make a South African alphabet. I’ve dedicated it to my first grandchild. She was born last year so it will be a few years before she can read and enjoy it!

  • Trestle Theatre in collaboration with Blind Eye will tour a stage version of Burn My Heart in the autumn. Click herefor information.


  • I shall fit in a few author visits over the year but I hope to spend a good deal of time writing. I still have to complete my special project…