“Data on books by and about Black, Indigenous and People of Color published for children and teens compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.”
High up on my list of things that upset me is the phrase often used by creatives “I don’t do this for the money.”
I’m not sure exactly when art went from being seen as the work of a highly skilled paid craftsperson, to being a quasi spiritual pilgrimage to be endured only by destitute geniuses with wicked cool hair. But somewhere along the line, that happened, and the creative community has never recovered.
It’s really the most insidious idea that we’ve all embraced without question. One that we’ve been fed by a patriarchal capitalist society that actively feeds off of the unpaid and underpaid labour of it’s creatives. That to truly be an artist of substance, we should do it entirely for free. And on an even deeper level, that artistic work, just isn’t worth money.
There are so many consequences of this. For example, why are most children’s books made by white women? A huge part is that writers and illustrators of most children’s books make almost no money from it, so generally the only people who can afford to devote their lives to it, are white ladies who are already financially secure. To be able to say “I don’t do it for the money” is a privilege and by perpetuating this as acceptable, we are complicit in shutting people who cannot work for free out of the arts.
So if you’re someone who likes to proudly say “I don’t do this for the money” especially when receiving a negative review, I would kindly ask you to please cease and desist for the well being of the entire creative community. Encouraging each other to value our time, and our work, is necessary if we ever want the rest of society to value us as well. By pushing for a shift in values, we work towards change and better conditions for artists in the future.
And if you’re someone who unfollows and abandons creators who monetize their work; rather than getting angry about them “selling out,” maybe closely examine why you feel this anger? And consider supporting their efforts to make a living.
Everybody loves a winner, and when it comes to the stories we enjoy, all we see are stories of winners. On the surface I guess it makes sense, we invest our emotions in a character, and we follow their journey, through every obstacle and failure, in the end, we want to be uplifted mostly. We want to see that win, we want to glorify it. And yes that applies to picture books.
But what does it mean to lose then? If the only stories worth telling in our society, are stories of winners? Accepting defeat isn’t just a reflection of the moment, but accepting an inferior identity and some people, clearly, just can’t handle it.
The more I think about it, the more nefarious the whole thing becomes, the ‘chosen one’, the ‘hero’s myth’, it’s all wrapped up in patriarchal white supremacy. There is only room for one person at the top.
White men see themselves as the heroes of their own stories, and so it’s not over until they win. Because isn’t that how the stories go?
There are so many pieces of this narrative that we need to change, in every book, and honestly I think including BIPOC representation in the stories that are coming out just scratches just the surface. Because clearly, the narrative and values themselves need to change.
One facet of this is accepting a loser’s journey as equally valid, being able to accept loss gracefully, to not be the chosen one, and to still be decent and gracious has value.
Many reviewers have been asked to recommend books about losing graciously recently, and I just plum can’t think of a single one, can you?
I never thought I would be someone to do a meal kit subscription, because I am a fairly capable cook. But being stuck in a pandemic, and not actually going to grocery stores to wander around and come up with new meal ideas has gotten us in the most terrible food rut.
So after doing a series of stories asking for meal kit subscription advice and recommendations, I decided to try out Hello Fresh. Over the last month we have received three deliveries, total of nine meals and I have decided we will not be continuing with it. But, under the right circumstances I think it certainly has some merits.
What I wanted to get out of it: I wanted to spice up our meal routine, I wanted to learn some new skills, I wanted my toddler who loves to cook to have a great time with it, and I wanted it all delivered conveniently.
Did it deliver those things? Yes. We tried new things. I learned a few things I would do again. My toddler had a blast, she loves doing the HelloFresh boxes. And, it was all conveniently delivered.
So why am I not continuing with it?
It’s just too expensive. It works out to be almost $150 for three meals (4 portions) with the delivery, and it was not enough for leftovers, I can buy enough food for a whole week if I bought just the groceries myself.
My kids didn’t like most of the meals. They were pretty hit and miss with my picky kids.
It wasn’t particularly filling. Even with four portions for our family of four (and our two kids under 5 barely eating) I ended up having to make an extra carb dish every time because it just wasn’t enough for us.
There is just so much packaging!
By the time we got to making the third meal, the salad or herbs were all wilted.
It was actually quite a bit of work, preparing the meals with my kids and then having them refuse to eat them, making them something else, then having to clean it all up. It ended up being way more effort than an average meal.
I personally actually enjoyed most of the recipes quite a lot. Of the nine recipes we would make five of them again I think. We all particularly enjoyed the Mexican inspired dishes.
The best things we got out of this were
It was a fantastic experience for my toddler. It was exciting for her, the box arrived, and then following the card, and her learning. A chance for her to work on life skills, on reading, on following procedures, fantastic. Honestly that was the best part of the whole thing, and if we do order another meal kit, it will 100% be for this reason alone.
My husband actually made a couple of the meals himself, and he doesn’t cook at all. So it was actually a wonderful break for me to have him be able to get into the kitchen and make something not from the freezer, and he came out of it with some new skills!
So do I recommend you try HelloFresh?
Yes if you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, I actually think it shakes things up. But for us personally as a family, it isn’t something sustainable long term.
Check out the reels below of my 2.5 year old Willow doing a couple of the HelloFresh meals. She really did have a fabulous time with it. Educational value alone on this was great.
Before 2020, the children’s book industry wasn’t something that most people could care less about. Sure, there were handfuls of teachers, librarians, niche collectors and people actually in the business of making kids’ books, but the general adult population at large wasn’t overly concerned with it.
2020 changed that, well, it changed a lot of things. It shone a burning spotlight on a number of issues and KidLit was one of them, people got fired up. The Black Lives Matter uprisings in June had people looking for ways to be anti-racist, to change the world, to take part, and it was decided a great place to start was with children’s books. The cynical part in me wonders if that’s because purchasing kid’s books, and putting them on a display shelf, is only two clicks up from the most basic form of armchair activism. Whether or not people were actually reading them and discussing them with kids is to be determined.
During the June uprisings, the status quo of children’s literature was found to be woefully inadequate, lacking in representation of BIPOC characters (Black Indigenous People of Colour), lacking in #ownvoices of Black authors and illustrators, lacking in stories that represented BIPOC characters in a range of types of stories. People who had probably never thought twice about what sort of books they were buying their kid at the grocery store, suddenly were up in arms demanding immediate change from an industry so slow that you’ve got to wonder if they’ve only got one poor fellow binding every book by hand. Of course, all of these problems I’ve mentioned were no secret; studies, surveys, statistics, have all existed and been done for years showing that this is a huge issue. It’s just in the heat of June, and the fire of the protest, people suddenly cared a lot.
Books like “A is for Activist” by Innosanto Nagara, were cleaned out of every online store for months. Social Media Accounts focused on Diversity and Black representation in kids’ books were flooded with new followers, some accounts growing by fifty thousand followers or more practically overnight. An entire generation of new Bookstagram accounts emerged.
With people clamouring to buy more books that just didn’t exist, the publishers have been left scrambling. They couldn’t do much that would have any immediate effect aside from reallocating marketing budgets to favour the books they did have featuring BIPOC characters. Suddenly popping out new books wasn’t an option. Especially given the constraints of being in the middle of a pandemic. Even under normal circumstances it takes about two years for the average book to be produced,
Publishers have gotten to work as fast as they can, finding BIPOC authors and illustrators, and getting to work on publishing socially conscious books, but it will still be approximately a year and a half before most of the books will come to fruition.
The big question is, how will these books be received, and how will that reception impact the course of Kidlit into the foreseeable future?
Will these books be rushed? Will they be of questionable quality because of that rush? Will the books all focus on delivering incredibly serious messages of social activism instead of providing picture books by and about BIPOC people that are meant for children to enjoy again and again? Because if the answer to any of those questions is yes, then there’s going to be a problem.
Secondly, by the time these books are released how many people will still be interested? The fervour of the uninvested has cooled considerably in the last few months. That paired with having had to endure the absolutely revolting deluge of self published Amazon books about Racism slapped together in an attempt to Capitalize on the BLM movement has me wondering, will people be tired of it?
The fact remains that lack of representation in kidlit, is an issue that needs to be addressed. If this massive wave of #ownvoices books by Black Creators about BIPOC characters does not fulfill the industry’s expectation, then what will happen? What will their conclusion be? What happens if they do not sell?
If things don’t work out my concern will be that the industry executives will conclude that they were correct all along in not investing in BIPOC creators and BIPOC stories. Capitalism may dictate it would be best to just quietly close the lid on all of this, and let it collect dust with every other trend from 2020.
Or maybe, maybe I’m just jaded, and it’ll be fantastic, and people will turn up in droves to buy them. Maybe the demand for change brought out in 2020, is just what we needed to launch a new era in children’s books, a more inclusive one.
This week we will be hosting a fantastic STEM Learning Giveaway on our Instagram @Readwithriver Giveaway runs from Dec. 3- Dec. 10, 2020.
We are so excited to be doing an incredible STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) Giveaway this year for our North American Followers. We will be giving away three wonderful books, two of which were winners in the #Bookstagang_Bestof2020 List! And in partnership with @ozobot we will also be giving away
To Enter, head over to Instagram! And Enter yourself in the Giveaway Post!
Watch River Show you how to use Evo the Ozobot!
We’re still learning about all of the features, because really the possibilities are enormous with coding your own programs, but here we show some of the basic ways you can use it.
You absolutely do not need to know how to code to be able to use this. It is incredibly accessible.
The Evo is a tiny robot that your child can code to perform certain actions by giving it instructions (code) in a few different ways. Using coloured markers, or stickers, tracks can be created and the Evo will follow along, this includes understanding instructions such as turn left, skip over or finished!
By downloading the app the Evo can also be driven by remote and given other instructions including doing tricks, playing games, or even trying your hand at programming your own game! Both River (4) and Willow (2) have had so much fun, designing tracks especially! They have enjoyed rolling out long sheets of paper to make extra long obstacle courses! It definitely levels up our homeschooling program.
US Customers Can purchase here. I do NOT make a commission from any sales, and I do highly recommend this toy we were gifted one. Additionally if you wish to order an Ozobot, during the holidays, they are also giving away a free Racer Wearable Skin
This is an anthology of biographies explores the lives of Female Scientists! Inspire your little ones!
Izzy and Fixer have returned in the next book in this fabulous series. They’re on a quest to build a naturally fueled recycling machine and hopefully win the Genius Guild badge as well! Relatable characters, fun read aloud, growth mind set!
What is energy? How do humans harness it, how do we use it, what do we use it for? This book explores all of the ins and outs of understanding this complex topic for kids! With wonderful illustrations. This book was one of the nominations for the #Bookstagang’s Best Books of 2020.
Picture books that are full of diverse and joyful representation of humans. With an emphasis on joy and love.
If you’d like to purchase any of the books you see here I recommend contacting your local bookshop, if they don’t have a copy they will be able to order one for you. If you appreciate the work I do here I have merch available as well as a tip jar here.
“When Aiden Became a Brother”
By Kyle Lukoff and Kaylani Juanita
“Ho’onani: Hula Warrior”
By Heather Gale and Mika Song
“The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish”