Earlier this week we were delighted to see that author Patrice Lawrence (one of the contributors to our short story anthology, Make More Noise) has received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours Lists.
To be awarded an MBE for services to literature is a very great honour, and how wonderful that this should follow hot on the heels of Patrice’s recent success at the Jhalak Prize, where she won the inaugural Children’s and Young Adult Prize for Eight Pieces of Silva. We feel particularly proud because we are lucky enough to be publishing Patrice’s forthcoming picture book, My Granny Came to England on the Empire Windrush.
When we first announced that Patrice was writing a picture book for us to commemorate National Windrush Day, which occurs every June, she kindly wrote a few words to add to our press release. She said, “I am proud to write the book that I wish I’d owned as a child, especially when I was made to feel I didn’t belong in England. The struggles and achievements of the Windrush generation must never be forgotten.”
In just a few words, Patrice has eloquently summarised why picture books are so important and why they can be so powerful. They are both “windows and mirrors” – showing a child a world that reflects their own whilst also giving them a perspective into the way that others might live. With their beautiful illustrations and engaging stories, picture books are a way to help young children understand the world around them and to help them find their place in it. Like Patrice, I wish a book like this had existed sooner, to help the children of Windrush, and their parents, to make sense of the new world they found themselves in.
Of course, for a picture book to really work, it’s all about how the author tells the story. An author has to “show, not tell” – they have to demonstrate a fundamental truth by the way story events unfold, and how a character reacts and learns something about themselves, rather than making plain statements. Because stories stay with us. Because characters that we care about stay with us. Plain statements don’t.
It’s the way that Patrice tells the story of Ava and her beloved granny that makes it so powerful. The past and present collide as Granny tells Ava of the moment she arrived on the Empire Windrush in 1948. The heat of Trinidad radiates off the page as Granny recollects her childhood home, but then we shiver in the bleakness of an English winter and the smog-laden skies of 1950s London. Patrice opens out the scale of the story yet further as she cleverly weaves in non-fiction elements, with reference to Rosa Parks and Winifred Atwell, so that Ava can really understand the scope and scale of her heritage.
But, ultimately, it’s the story of how a little girl adores her granny and of how there is no one else she would rather emulate. This is the way that Patrice tells us about Windrush and its legacy, how a personal experience can give us perspective on a crucial moment in history.
Patrice is a natural storyteller who is full of heart. She deserves every single accolade and award, and we can’t wait for this uplifting and important book to be available to everyone.
My Granny Came to England on the Empire Windrush is beautifully illustrated by debut artist Camilla Sucre, and will be published in May 2022 to commemorate National Windrush Day 2022.