Diverse Children's Books

Updated: Sep 21, 2018

I had the idea for "Trainsurfer" while participating in a coffee-shop script writing course. The "what if" question I had for a screenplay was..."What if I could get one of the Sowetan boys away from the dangerous activity of riding on top of trains, and into wave surfing in Durban?"

I sat down at my laptop on a writing retreat in front of a blank screen. I could not get my head into the mind of a teenager from an impoverished neighbourhood. I am a woman who had grown up on the other 'side' of the apartheid divide. The other hurdle I had, was that I had only done a short course on scriptwriting, and didn't really know where to begin.

I had a heart for the character in my story, but I couldn't get into his world.

Fifteen years later, I sat at my desk covering books and listening to a webinar on SLJ about diverse books. I had never heard this term before, but I remembered the film I had wanted to write, and wondered if I could write it as a middle-grade fiction. I am a school librarian and am comfortable with the world of children's books and teen books.

I sat down at my laptop again. This time I entered Jabu's world with relative ease. I had been away from Africa for more than eight years and I missed the sights and sounds. I missed the African people. I closed my eyes and I could picture Jabu, the train station, the townships, the sky.

This is how Trainsurfer became a book.

I would comfortably call it a #diverse book, in that the main character, Jabu, is a Zulu boy. The sequel, "Saving Thandi" will have numerous African characters, as well as a disabled character.