#PassThePen 2021: Perfect Christmas gift ideas from BookTrust Represents authors and illustrators this year

Published on: 02 December 2021

These top new books by British authors and illustrators of colour are perfect Christmas gifts for young readers!

We love discovering great books throughout the year, and we’re passionate about supporting emerging authors and illustrators of colour, so we have put together their recommendations of books to buy this Christmas!

Every book on this list has been published in the last 12 months and has been created by at least one British author or illustrator of colour. This list is supportive of the #PassThePen initiative, which gave emerging authors and illustrators a platform to showcase their talent and reach new audiences by taking over high-profile stars Instagram, and will occur again in March 2022 with World Book Day.

Find out more about #PassThePen

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1. The Best Diwali Ever by Sonali Shah and Chaaya Prabhat (Scholastic)

Ariana is super excited for Diwali – she’s looking forward to yummy sweets, playing with her cousins, and wearing a lovely outfit – and staying up late to watch fireworks, of course!

A gorgeous book about the customs of Diwali is coupled with a relatable story about an older and younger sibling – and how, sometimes, little ones can be annoying, but they can also make life wonderful and full of fun. Ariana’s story will be totally relatable for anyone with a younger brother or sister, and this is a perfect book to share at Diwali, too.

The Best Diwali Ever by Sonali Shah and Chaaya PrabhatIllustration: Chaaya Prabhat

2. Story Soup by Abie Longstaff and Nila Aye (Templar)

Siblings Ollie and Susie are cooking up story soup but can’t seem to agree on what should go into the pot. With each new ingredient they add, the story takes an unexpected turn.

There’s even a "story soup" recipe at the end of the book, which guides a child through the story writing process. While also exploring sibling rivalry and forgiveness, this is a fantastic book to show youngsters that you can mix seemingly random items and ideas together and make an awesome, wacky story, just like Ollie and Susie’s. A fun celebration of imagination and a great introduction to how to create a story. 

3. Sunflower Sisters by Monika Singh Gangotra and Michaela Dias Hayes (Owlet Press)

Best friends Amrita and Kiki are both preparing for family weddings. As Amrita’s family arrive at her home to kick off celebrations, she is exposed to old-fashioned attitudes to skin tone from older relatives. Thankfully, Mum refutes the ridiculous claims, affirms her daughter’s beauty and celebrates her dark skin.

Sunflower Sisters pays tribute to cultural traditions and celebrations, combined with empowering conversations that address outdated views of beauty. The book gently explores colourism (also known as shadeism) and how harmful unkind words and old fashioned views can be. All the while, it sendsa clear message about the importance of self-love – especially within Asian and African communities.

Sunflower Sisters by Monika Singh Gangotra and Michaela Dias HayesIllustration: Michaela Dias Hayes

4. A Double Detectives Medical Mystery: Diagnosis Danger by Roopa Farooki (Oxford University Press)

When their friend is viciously attacked, twin medical detectives Ali and Tulip are on the case. But can they assess the crime correctly and diagnose the villain behind it? 

The medical knowledge the twins have picked up from their mum is integral to solving the case and the story is punctuated with useful nuggets of medical information that are explained more fully in an appendix at the end of the book. Compelling reading that manages to combine entertaining slapstick with creepy villains.

5. Jaz Santos vs. the World by Priscilla Mante (Puffin)

Jaz loves football but it seems that only boys get to play. Jaz’s mum, from Angola, and her father, from Scotland, no longer get on – and when her mum nearly burns the house down, her parents decide it is time for Mum to move out. It leaves Jaz desperate to get her back. Maybe if she scores enough goals and wins the football tournament? But first she has to get together a team of girls...

Warm-hearted and funny, this book explores the sexism in society and gives lots of opportunities to learn about real-life women football players. 

6. The Very Merry Murder Club by various, edited by Robin Stevens and Serena Patel, illustrated by Harry Woodgate (Farshore)

This fabulously festive compendium of Christmas mysteries features short stories by Abiola Bello, Annabelle Sami, Benjamin Dean, Dominique Valente, E.L. Norry, Elle McNicoll, Joanna Williams, Maisie Chan, Nizrana Farook, Patrice Lawrence, Roopa Farooki, Serena Patel and Sharna Jackson. A treat of a book for all young mystery lovers: perfect with a cup of hot chocolate and a cosy chair.

The Very Merry Murder Club by various, edited by Robin Stevens and Serena Patel, illustrated by Harry Woodgate (Farshore)Illustration: Harry Woodgate

7. Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow by Benjamin Dean and Sandhya Prabhat (Simon & Schuster)

Archie Albright’s parents are splitting up. So far, so unhappily normal - but Archie senses his parents are hiding something from him. His mother seems angry but also sad, and yet his parents still seem to care for each other. It’s only when he overhears them arguing that he learns the truth – his dad is gay.

This is a kind book which frames the topic of a parent coming out with a gentle story about decent people dealing as best they can with seismic changes to their lives, and one which will be warmly welcomed by readers waiting to read about a story that mirrors their own.

8. Happy Here by various, with an introduction by Sharna Jackson (Knights Of)

In Happy Here, ten illustrated short stories from present day black authors and illustrators will thrill readers with the stories they’ve been waiting for, featuring black protagonists at the centre of a huge variety of fictional worlds and situations. There’s also fabulous artwork from a number of new and established illustrators which bring the stories alive.

9. The Boy Who Met A Whale by Nizrana Farook (Nosy Crow)

Page one of this thrilling adventure throws readers into a violent storm at sea aboard a sinking ship. Page two adds a murderous first mate and a mysterious scroll. By page four, the ship and its crew are lost.

From then on, the story is one of contrasts: the beautiful serenity of a remote island nation, edge-of-seat thrills and nerve-jangling brushes with death and the quiet tragedy and triumphs of complicated personal experiences. A great story with wide appeal for middle grade readers.

The Boy Who Met A Whale by Nizrana Farook, illustrated by David DeanIllustration: David Dean

10. The Lightning Catcher by Clare Weze (Bloomsbury)

When Alfie moves to the village of Folding Ford, he is baffled by a series of strange occurrences: a frozen puddle on a hot sunny day, a whirlwind in a bucket and a scary looking man with moths attached to his wrists by tiny threads. Armed with a notebook and a new friend, Alfie decides to investigate.

This exciting, science-packed novel is a cracking read and bursts with action, warmth and humour.

11. Ghostcloud by Michael Mann and Chaaya Prabhat (Hodder)

Kidnapped Luke shovels coal under Battersea Power station, but when he discovers he is half-ghost, he realises he has a chance to save his friends and find his family. 

Luke is a gutsy hero, with friends including the delightful wannabe-plumber Jess and tough Ravi. It’s a satisfying and often surprising fantasy world that children will no doubt enjoy coming back to again and again. There are some scary monsters in the story, but the underlying humour keeps it from becoming too dark.

Ghostcloud by Michael Mann and Chaaya PrabhatIllustration: Chaaya Prabhat

12. Silence Is Not An Option by Stuart Lawrence (Scholastic)

Teacher and motivational speaker Stuart Lawrence is the brother of Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered in a racist attack. 

Stuart begins each chapter by relating his advice – on topics such as self-control, or coming up with a Plan B, to his experience after his brother died. This makes it easy to see how he has applied these lessons in his own life. The book aims to help young people live successful, positive, happy lives and to empower them to create change in the world. It covers everything from time management to growth mindset.

BookTrust Represents

BookTrust Represents is a four-year project created to promote children’s authors and illustrators of colour.

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