Congratulations on your debut children’s book! Has becoming an author always been your goal?
Yes, it has been. I have written many a book - but left them sitting either the notes on my phone or my laptop because imposter syndrome is real!
When and how did you come up with the idea for Taye’s Hairy Adventure?
Taye’s Hairy Adventure derived after the birth of my last son. It’s then it became apparent to me that there was an underdeveloped area in the children illustration book market. All of my boys have had their hair grow and it felt important to me to create a book that not only empowered and represented young black boys to find the magic in their hair but, also a story in which any child could pick it up and engage with it. Hair is still such a taboo subject. It remains offensive to so many and yet the crown we wear so graciously is a beautiful extension of our character and identity.
This is the first book in a series - what’s next in the story?
The next story brings in a little more diversity. I am a big believer that children’s worlds should be presented to them early and through the use of books and illustrations we are able to encourage this from a really young age. I do, however before the next story is released, have an interactive spin-off from ‘Taye’s Hairy Adventure’ which really targets children’s hair pride and creativity.
Why was it important for you to contribute an inclusive story about a young, Black boy to the world of children’s literature?
To me, there just simply isn’t enough representation. I can pick up many a book with monsters, animals and caucasian children as the lead character; however, finding a book that represents children from African and Caribbean diaspora is still a rarity.
What are the challenges of writing a children’s book compared to writing for an adult audience?
Gosh, there were many. I think we have ‘adulted’ for so many years we sometimes lose sight of life through the lens of a child. Having my youngest son and him being in toddler age I could clearly remember and see the creativity, imagination, exploration, challenges and even boundary-pushing that they face. I am currently writing an adult book in which there really is no comparison. A child’s book is often one filled with magic, education and wonder (well, for younger children) whereas an adult's book is often a means to escapism, a clarifyer or a tool of education.
What are the important lessons that you want children to learn by reading your books?
I really want children who read and engage with my book to be proud of who they are and their hair. I want them to see the magic in their hair as well as simply enjoy a children’s book. I want them to be unafraid of having big hair that looks different to society's ‘accepted ideals’.
What do your own children think of your achievement?
My gosh, proud isn’t even the word. They were my supporters. They read the story, helped to edit it and even signed off on illustrations. They have told family, friends and even their teachers basically anyone who would listen to them. All of them are beaming with so much pride and joy- I feel so blessed.
What’s the best way to encourage children to read?
For me, there are a few things I think that can really engage and impact a child’s learning journey.
- A little bit goes a long way - you really don’t need to finish a whole book in one sitting. Read for 10 minutes and discuss what you have read maybe even get them to predict what’s next.
- Read with intention- It doesn’t matter how old your child is there is something so magical about bringing a book to life. Create a voice for the character, be the animals and read with the flow of grammar. It truly makes the book exciting.
- Lastly, if you find your child is disconnecting from reading I always advise getting them reading their interest. If their favourite thing is football, buy a football magazine and get them to read different elements of it.
Remember that reading doesn’t need to be a chore - always make it fun and always keep the child at the centre of their learning.
Which authors do you admire?
I would have to say my favourite duo of author and illustrator has to be Nathan Bryan and Dapo Adelo (creators of ‘Look Out’). Little Rocket is just the most amazing character and truly enables all children to positively engage but I do have to say that the representation of having a little black girl as the lead is a huge win for me. But, I can’t deny I am a huge lover of Charlie and Lola books written and illustrated by Lauren Child - I love how the text and illustrations marry and dance on a page as well as how she incorporates different textures and mediums in her illustrations.