Diversity and Representation

They have been struck by the recognition of themselves in the story, a validation of their existence as human beings, an acknowledgment of their value by someone who understands who they are.
— Walter Dean Myers

I read this really wonderful opinion piece in the New York Times recently, a piece by author Walter Dean Myers that asks the question "where are the people of colo[u]r in Children's books?"

It's a similar question that lead me to write Amazing Babes - of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, stats that are a lot worse than, but reminiscent of, how regularly we see female protagonists in children's books: around 57% of children’s books published each year have male protagonists, versus 31% female, and in popular children’s books featuring animated animals, 100% of them have male characters, but only 33% have female characters (see here for stats and further discussion)

To be honest, it's a problem that extends beyond children's books - it's the same in film, telly, music, and history. But I think that children's books hold a unique space in the ability to change how we as a society view the world - and this is what Walter Dean Myers writes about in his article:

Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color? Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color? Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be?
— Walter Dean Myers

I'm inspired daily by the small and not so small actions of people wanting to spark change around the world, and I love the discovery of ways to do this more effectively with young children - my own and with the generation my kids will grow up being a part of. 

 

To add to the reading list

I wrote Amazing Babes for my son’s first birthday after a year of reading so many wonderful books, yet feeling frustrated by how few of them had strong female role models for him to grow up with. I’ve since discovered there are plenty – they’re just a little more difficult to find! Which, after a bit of research, makes sense; only 31% of children’s books published each year have female protagonists. 

This statistic mightn’t mean too much at first glance, I know when I’m looking for a book for my kids the first thing I look for is a book that they’ll love, the second is that it’s a book that I won’t hate. As my two children grow older I’ve started to notice that the books they read have an impact on how they view the world – just like us, kids make sense of the world through what they know.

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Amazing Babes at the Sydney Story Factory

Amazing Babes at the Sydney Story Factory

We were so delighted to be invited to the Sydney Story Factory to hold a workshop on Amazing Babes - introducing kids to women who have changed the world, and getting them to write a letter to a woman who had changed their world. 

Everyone who attended was so incredible, naming women who had qualities they admired and sharing ideas around what made an amazing babe. While we were all busy writing our letters, Grace made a cover for a book to collect all the letters. We then decided on a title for the collection - "Letters From Us To You", printed out some copies and BAM! A book full of wonderful women, ideas and ways to grow, as written by the kids of the Sydney Story Factory.

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Amazing Babes Launch at The Little Bookroom

Amazing Babes Launch at The Little Bookroom

We had such a wonderful time at the Little Bookroom in Carlton North to celebrate the release of the book. Not only did we get to launch the book in the world's oldest Children's Bookshop and meet some pretty amazing babes, plus get to admire the most beautiful window we'd ever seen, but it was also the first time in three years that Eliza and Grace were in the same city!! SO many good things happening all at once. We were a little overwhelmed.

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Two happy customers

It has been such a thrill to see photos coming in from all around Australia of sightings of the book on shelves - if you've seen us, or even bought Amazing Babes, off the shelves at your favourite bookstore, please let us know! facebook.com/aamazingbabess@Amazing_Babes, amazingbabesbook@gmail.com

But the biggest thrill of all has been reading the book with these two - Arthur Plum (2 years), who the book was originally written for, spotted Amazing Babes at Kinokuniya Books in Sydney and promptly went over and started reading it, like it was the most normal thing in the world. Audre (3 months) looked a little overwhelmed by it when I first read it to him, but that's his reactions to most things these days! I feel very lucky to have gotten to make this book for both of them, and even luckier that we get to share it with the world.

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Vandana Shiva is all smiles for Amazing Babes

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Felt very lucky to get to see Dr Vandana Shiva speak at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House. I hope they'll upload what was an inspiring, revitalising talk that ended on the wise summation "big = small, small = big," an ethos I think is at the core of so many of the projects I've been lucky enough to work on.  This article is a really good outline of her critique of economic growth, a good intro to the Growth = Poverty discussion.

Was thrilled to pick up her latest book, and give her a copy of ours, after the talk. Her smile was so illuminating - I think she liked it!

Three Dimensional Role Models

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I stumbled upon this article about Hedy Lamarr a couple of days back and it's a really wonderful, comprehensive look at the many sides of Hedy Lamarr - perhaps best known as a Hollywood beauty, but also the brains behind some of the technology we use daily - wifi, bluetooth, and cordless telephones.

Reminds me of another three dimensional role model, the wholly awesome Amazing Babe Kathleen Hanna.

Grace Lee at the Sydney Opera House

Grace Lee will be at the Sydney Opera House this weekend as part of the GRAPHIC Festival, working with Lorelei Vashti as part of Radio with Pictures.

Grace will be doing pictures to Lorelei's words, recreating the gruelling process of Lorelei writing her first book - a memoir of her 20s in dresses based on her incredible blog, Dress, Memory. 

The show takes place over two sessions in the Studio, 3.30pm and 7.15pm. If you can't make it along, keep your ear out for the broadcast on Radio National on October 27, and see Grace's work in the vodcast to be released at the same time. We'll let you know when it's up! 

Click through the images below to see some of Grace's incredible illustrations. 

Amazing Babes + Scribe Publications = ♥

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 We are pretty over the moon to let you know that we’re working on a version of Amazing Babes to be released by Scribe Publications in November this year. We couldn’t be happier to be with Scribe, one of Australia’s finest independent publishers and a publishing house that’s committed to promoting social justice and political thinking.

We are so thrilled to be taking this book to a wider audience and couldn’t be more grateful for your support in helping us get to this point. 

Thank you, from the bottom, top and middle of our hearts!

Shami Chakrabarti at SWF

I was lucky enough to see Shami Chakrabarti speak, alongside the ever-inspiring Jude Kelly, earlier this month at the Sydney Writers' Festival as part of their Women of the World (WOW) programming. Such a great initiative within such a strong festival - they had RN on board recording some of the sessions, you can take a listen to Shami alongside Jude Kelly, Kate Mosse and hosted by RN's Natasha Mitchell in Fifty Shades of Feminism here.