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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.

"Trainsurfer" is being read in schools in South Africa, New Zealand and the USA. Teachers are using it to enrich social studies, alongside topics about social injustice. For example, a teacher in the USA reads it to her Grade 4 class, comparing apartheid to slavery. A teacher in New Zealand is reading it while studying the "Springbok Tours" (when New Zealand was divided over the Springbok rugby tour), and pairing it with "The Power of One".

It is available on Amazon as an eBook or paperback.

It is also available in New Zealand via various options (see the home page of this website).

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