MAGIC. It crossed borders and screens and zipped around the air like a weightless ethereal light, leaving us with a childlike wonder that we needed to be reminded of now, more than ever. This was the unique profoundness I felt in the last talk of The Bookseller’s Children’s Conference that has stayed in my mind, and I imagine, the minds of everyone else who attended this year; one that felt like magic. Bestselling author/word extraordinaire, Katherine Rundell, encapsulated this shared notion in her Author Manifesto regarding the hope we must strive for in children’s fiction, and for me this was the prevailing theme across the four days as one we must not only acknowledge, but promise to strive for as storytellers.
2020, for all its many flaws, has provided us with more time than ever before for pause, fuelling moments of reflection and self-recognition of our fleeting being in the world. It was truly a blessing then to see the significance of those moments come to fruition at the conference. The pandemic has inevitably affected us all individually, but on a wider scale, the publishing industry. The children’s fiction market has had to adapt, remodel and reconcile with new modes of creative and financial strategy.
Rachel Williams and Jenny Broom, co-publishers at Magic Cat Publishing, are prime examples of two such storytellers that launched their brand during the height of COVID19. In the midst of this unstoppable whirlwind, Rachel and Jenny decided to concentrate on what they could control, which not only inevitably included an increased digital presence, but also a focus on the quality of books. This recognition of the type of stories and truths that need to be told is of primary importance to Magic Cat, who place children as their ultimate priority. The incredible female owned independent publishers have galvanised their brand through the current climate, becoming a necessary ‘lighthouse’ family book brand whose values incorporate kindness, togetherness, inclusivity and friendship; wholesome truths humans of all ages can learn from.
As a brown, muslim woman, there is a certain lens through which I see the industry and if, and how, I am reflected within it. Jelani Memory, Co-founder of publishing brand, A Kids Book About, spoke to my soul in his talk on cultural conversations that fundamentally had love, hope and of course, an abundance of magic at its core. Jelani proves that there is never a wrong or right time for this vital emphasis on representation in children’s books, but rather that transpiring political events demand a call for action in the type of stories being told.
We are witnessing global social injustices, rising mental health issues and a rapidly increasing disillusioned state of affairs, all at an unprecedented scale. These inalienable truths are difficult to hide from children, nor should they be. It is my strong belief that the power of words can send a ripple effect of positive change through the world, and that starts with a single child. Whatever their race, religion, sexuality, gender, they need to see that in the fulcrum of pain in truth, there is oh so much hope to be found; and that alone is magic.