#PassThePen booklist: Christmas gift ideas from brilliant BookTrust Represents authors and illustrators

Published on: 12 November 2020

Looking for really great books to buy this Christmas and beyond, by new British writers and illustrators of colour? This is the booklist of your dreams!

The front covers of the books on the #PassThePen booklist

Here at BookTrust, we're passionate about supporting emerging authors and illustrators of colour - so BookTrust Represents has teamed up with Waterstones Children's Laureate Cressida Cowell for #PassThePen!

This brand new initiative will see up-and-coming creatives taking over the Instagram accounts of famous names including Dermot O'Leary, Nadiya Hussain and Greg James and Chris Smith from 16-20 November.

Here, we're sharing some of the books that will be featured in #PassThePen - every book in this list has been published between September 2019 to November 2020 and has been created by at least one British author or illustrator of colour who has published no more than four books. And they would all make excellent Christmas gifts!

Find out more about #PassThePen


1. Son of the Circus: A Victorian Story by EL Norry 
(Scholastic Voices series)

Based on real people and historical events, Son of the Circus is a tale of triumph, perseverance, fitting in and standing out in a crowd. With a real feel of Victorian Britain, the story deals delicately with the experience of being a person of colour in the latter part of the 19th century, and delights readers with the intricacies of circus life.

2. My Hair written by Hannah Lee, illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan (Faber) 


This joyful celebration of black hair demonstrates a range of styles and will inspire children to experiment with their own look. Lively illustrations in warm, rich colours accompany the rhythmic text and readers are invited to draw a picture of their own hair at the end of the book.

3. Too Small Tola, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu and written by Atinuke (Walker Books)


The front cover of Too Small Tola 

Tola's determination, compassion and generosity are celebrated in this positive portrayal of a contemporary Nigerian family. Through the young girl's experiences, children will learn about life in Lagos, from the bumper-to-bumper traffic on hot, dusty roads to the stark contrast between rich and poor.

4. Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Missing Diamonds by Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Daniela Sosa (Stripes) 


This is an energetic, fun-to-read adventure, set against the background of a traditional Pakistani pre-wedding ceremony.

5. Llama Out Loud by Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan (Egmont) 


Yasmin is a quiet girl in a REALLY loud family. It seems like no-one's ever listening to her - so one day, Yasmin decides to stop talking. Then Levi, a toy llama, bursts into her life at full volume. It's just a pity that all his pranks are blamed on Yasmin. This is a fantastically funny book!

6. Anisha Accidental Detective and Anisha Accidental Dectective: School's Cancelled by Serena Patel, illustrated by Emma McCann (Usborne)


Spending time with Anisha's British Indian family is chaotic, loud, and great fun. Bonkers Aunty Bindi, feisty Granny Jas and the rest of Anisha's family and friends are brought vividly to life in the funny and expressive black and white illustrations that also drive the time-critical plot. A fabulous and very amusing new series.

7. A Fox Called Herbert by Margaret Sturton (Andersen Press)


The front cover of A Fox Called Herbert

This is a charming picture book about identity and acceptance. The colourful illustrations are full of warmth, personality and gentle humour, adding another layer of depth to the tale.

8. Mic Drop: A High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson (Knights Of) 


The second in Sharna Jackson's High Rise Mystery books sees Nik and Norva return with another crime to solve on their home turf. It's great to see an inner-city crime mystery for kids, as well as two black girl sleuths, and Jackson gives us a twisty, witty novel full of red herrings, sass and adventure.

9. Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found by Aisha Bushby (Egmont) 


Inspired by traditional Middle Eastern tales, this captivating adventure is full of magic, mystery and danger.

10. Dosh by Rashmi Sirdeshpande, illustrated by Adam Hayes (Wren & Rook)


This fun financial handbook aims to encourage children to develop good money habits from an early age. It is packed full of information and advice about how to manage money effectively.

11. How to Be Extraordinary by Rashmi Sirdeshpande, illustrated by Annabel Tempest (Puffin) 


This inspirational non-fiction picture book introduces children to extraordinary people from across the world and throughout history.

12. Never Show a T-Rex A Book by Rashmi Sirdeshpande, illustrated by Diane Ewen (Puffin) 


The front cover of Never Show a T-Rex a Book

This entertaining tale celebrates the joy of reading and demonstrates how books can fuel the imagination. Featuring a protagonist of colour and a female dinosaur, this inclusive picture book will appeal to a diverse audience.

13. Tamarind and the Star of Ishta by Jasbinder Bilan 
(Chicken House)


This is an intriguing and emotional story which weaves together themes of identity, belonging and bereavement with mythology and magical realism, all within the stunning setting of a grand old house in India.

14. When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten (Pushkin Press)


A beautifully-written story of small towns and the eternally shifting sands of friendship and family. Mysterious, poetic and dream-like at times, Getten's Jamaica-set book has a classic feel.

15. Boy, Everywhere by A.M. Dassu (Old Barn Books)


13 year-old Sami has a good life in Damascus, and doesn't imagine the war raging in the rest of the country will reach him. When a bomb goes off at a shopping mall, shattering his little sister's childhood, his family decide to sell everything and flee Syria. So begins Sami's journey across Europe, and into danger, poverty and fear.

16. The Little War Cat by Hiba Noor Khan, illustrated by Laura Chamberlain (Macmillan) 


The front cover of The Little War Cat

Inspired by the bravery and indomitable spirit of Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel, also known as The Cat Man of Aleppo, this is the ultimate story of how hope can still thrive during times of extreme adversity and of the ripple effect that spreads from small acts of kindness.

17. You're Strong With Me, illustrated by Poonam Mistry and written by Chitra Soundar (Lantana Publishing)


This story of a young giraffe being gently supported by her mother reassures children that parental support will be there for as long as it is needed. The original and intricate illustrations are inspired by traditional painting and embroidery methods used in India.

18. Trailblazers: Harriet Tubman by Sandra A. Agard (Little Tiger (Stripe)) 


This well-illustrated, accessible biography is a great introduction to an inspirational leader who was born into slavery in 1849, escaped to the North of America where slavery was banned, and then devoted her life to getting escaped slaves to safety and freedom. A brilliant book on a key figure to be studied in primary history.

19. Rabbit Bright, written and illustrated by Viola Wang (Hachette)

The front cover of Rabbit Bright


Scientific facts about light are brought together with a reassuring tale about a rabbit conquering his fear of the dark. The combination makes for a story which satisfies on many levels. The stunning illustrations, which contrast neon colour with black and deep blue backgrounds, will grab the attention of children and adults alike.

20. Avocado Asks, written and illustrated by Momoko Abe (Hachette)


Avocado is quite happy in the supermarket until he hears a child ask her mother an awkward question: is an avocado a fruit or a vegetable? This clever, funny book carries some punchy, essential messages for those whose identity is complex or mixed.

21. Sona Sharma: Very Best Big Sister illustrated by Jen Khatun and written by Chitra Soundar (Walker)


Sona really wants to be the best big sister ever, however challenging that is! The illustrations ensure that a reader will fall in love not only with the richness and beauty of Indian culture, but also with Sona's kind, warm family. It is refreshing to read a book with a strong-minded Asian girl who is not immediately a perfect little carer.

22. Afraid of the Dark, illustrated by Lucy Farfort and written by Sarah Shaffi and Isabel Otter (Little Tiger)


In this gentle story, Amy and her father move house but Amy cannot sleep in her unfamiliar new bedroom. With the help of stories and friends, she finally finds a way to make her bedroom feel like a safe place.


There's a book for everyone in this list! Please spread the word on social media and beyond with #PassThePen, and visit your local bookshop or library to buy or read these brilliant books.

You can also check out booktrust.org.uk/represents to find out more about the work BookTrust are doing to help make sure more children have access to a range of books that reflect them and their wider communities.

More from BookTrust Represents

More from Waterstones Children's Laureate Cressida Cowell


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