Top Texts for January 2024

Bennie Kara has chosen a fabulous selection of diverse texts for this month

The Gilded Ones

by Namina Forna

This is a rollicking read. Forna creates a fantasy world inspired by West African culture and in its heroine, a representative rival to Triss and Katniss and so on. Written with pace, with a keen plot – one that really carries the reader to far off lands – we see Deka the protagonist battle against the powers that be. Forna centres the female experience, with female warriors and all-female ancestors, marking out a book that wants to demonstrate the power of women and the sisterhood.

If you are looking for a book to inspire using Black characters with agency, this is a great pick for young people at upper KS3/KS4 level.

My Moms Love Me

by Anna Membrino, illustrated by Joy Hwang Ruiz

This book is well-loved in our household made up of two mums and two mixed race, adopted children. It is written in short rhymes that become familiar enough to be repeated like spoken word poetry, and accompanied by beautiful images throughout. My toddlers love this picture book, partly because it has a Mummy and a Mama in it, just like in our house, but also because of the warm colours of the illustrations.  The content is not anything extraordinary; Membrino describes daily activities like cuddles and playtime, visiting farms and bath/bed routines. This is partly why it is such a comforting picture book; our children can see themselves in the activities.

I am grateful that this book exists. For many families, representation is hard to find. Anyone who think it’s not important only needs to listen to my children repeating the lines they’ve read in this book in the little moments of the day to know that representation builds belonging.

 

The Case of the Missing Moonstone

by Jordan Stratford

I worked in a school where every child in Year 7 was bought a copy of this book as a shared reader and I was delighted by it. It focuses on the detective antics of two independent, clever girls called Ada and Mary, who are based on the real life Ada Lovelace and Mary Godwin/Shelley.  The story revolved around a missing necklace, lots of clues and red herrings, and other exciting capers. Ada and Mary are presented as resilient, thoughtful, intelligent and brave. They serve as a gateway to the real historical figures, but their presence also counters the idea that detecting is a male endeavour.

So, move over Sherlock, Jordan Stratford has written a stunning book for upper KS2/lower KS3 that shows girls can do anything!

Bennie Kara

About this month's reviewer

Bennie Kara is a former deputy headteacher in the East Midlands, specialising in curriculum, teaching and learning. She started her career in the inaugural cohort of Teach First in 2003, teaching English in East London. Since then, she has taught in four London boroughs and in South Oxfordshire, before her return to the Midlands to teach in Derby.

Bennie now speaks, writes and trains on diversity in the curriculum. Alongside supporting schools to diversify their curriculum, she is the author of ‘A Little Guide for Teachers: Diversity in Schools’ (Sage Education). She has written on the subject of diversity for publications such as Schools Week and the Chartered College of Teaching’s Education Exchange, as well as contributing to many books by educators. She is a nationally and internationally recognised keynote speaker.  Her second book, ‘Diverse Educators: A Manifesto’, a co-edited book with her Diverse Educators co-founder, Hannah Wilson, was published in April 2022.

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