The £1 (€1:50) children’s books for 2017’s World Book Day have been selected and whilst they are a wonderful selection they have garnered more than a little criticism in regards to the lack of diversity to be found in the titles.
The ten books which will be available from Bookshops across the UK next March are aimed at children ranging from pre-schoolers to early teens and in marking the 20th anniversary of WBD hope to hit the 1 million boom sales target after last year’s impressive 789,738.
2017’s titles include Peppa Loves World Book Day, Everyone Loves Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort, and Where’s Wally? The Fantastic Journey by Martin Handford for younger readers, with Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks providing the picture book Princess Mirror-Belle and Snow White. For slightly older children there are the titles Horrid Henry: Funny Fact Files by Francesca Simon and Good Old Timmy and Other Stories by Enid Blyton, moving up to the middle-grade readers there will be an as yet untitled book by David Walliams and Butterfly Beach by Jacqueline Wilson, with teens being able to choose between Island by David Almond or Dead of Night: A Front Lines Story by Michael Grant. Children in Ireland will also be able to buy Fast Forward by Judi Curtin.
All of which are perfectly wonderful books in their own right but upon closer inspection seem to be sadly lacking in diversity. With not one single BAME author featuring Nikesh Shukla (an author himself) said that he was ‘very sad’ at the selection and that ‘we need to see ourselves’ in books. “If you’re a BAME parent with a kid who doesn’t read and you want to inspire them to, giving them a book they can see themselves in is a start,” Shukla continued. “My daughter sees herself in the books we curate for her and she is a voracious reader. She is two. And she sits by herself flicking through books. That’s by design not accident. We found books with brown kids. We let her see herself. And now she wants to read all the time.”
He added: “We’ve not come very far.”
World Book Day director Kirsten Grant responded to the accusation saying that “Each year, publishers are invited to nominate their authors to write a £1 World Book Day book. Ten authors are then chosen by a panel made up of representatives from across the bookselling industry, as well as World Book Day itself.”
“The brief is a challenging one, in that the £1 books need to offer something for all age ranges, reading levels and needs. The panel aims to choose as diverse a range of authors as possible from the names that are put forward”.
She said: “World Book Day exists to promote a love of reading in children and young people by providing free books to those who might not otherwise have a book of their own. It is a charity that relies on the support of the publishing and bookselling industries.”
Here’s hoping that the comments are taken on board and that Publishers nominate a truly diverse selection of books for World Book Day 2018.