Richy K. Chandler author of You Make Your Parents Super Happy! and When Are You Going to Get a Proper Job? talks through the challenges that come with creating diverse characters in stories, and why it is so important to do.
When I was working on You Make Your Parents Super Happy! (my recent picture book for children whose parents have separated but still both want to be part of their child’s life), I was conscious of keeping the gender and race of all characters ambiguous. While the book deals with a very specific situation, I hope that the universality of the characters’ appearance means that as many children and families as possible can see themselves as the beings found within the pages. This could be two dads, a mum and a dad, two mums and a multitude of relationships also representing the full range of cultures and ethnic back grounds that exist.Similarly, with Lucy the Octopus, my webcomic that looks at the effects of bullying and bigotry (hopefully in a humorous and super cute way), I wanted to make the lead character as universally relatable as possible. The strip touches on racism, homophobia and not fitting into gender stereotypes but it’s never made clear exactly why Lucy, the heroine, is so unliked. Lots of readers have told me that they see part of themselves in Lucy, and not always for the same reasons. I’m usually both happy that the character is relatable and saddened for the readers to have gone through similar horrible experiences.
As a writer who has no desire to create comics starring myself (hats off to those brave enough to make candid, graphic autobiographies), there are other good reasons for making characters more universal. With Lucy the Octopus, I wanted to talk about experiences of feeling picked on and ostracised in my own school years, but I’d rather avoid the spotlight being on myself. Making Lucy a girl and an octopus certainly did that job and frees me up to wildly exaggerate my own experiences within her fantastical world. For example, my own family were not terrible to me like Lucy’s are (except that year I got Scrabble for my birthday instead of the Crossbows and Catapults game I’d wished for, but I’m a survivor and made it through that bleak day). Continue reading
To celebrate the festive season, and Maria and Me‘s inclusion in the Reading Agency’s 2018 Summer Reading Challenge collection, we thought we would share with you a snippet from the book itself – so without further ado…
Giving a father’s insight into life with his daughter Maria, aged 12, who has autism, this comic tells the story of their week holiday in the Canary Islands, Spain. Delightful illustrations and dialogue between father and daughter show the day-to-day challenges that people with autism and their carers face, and how Miguel and Maria overcome them.
Funny and endearing, this comic helps to show how Maria sees and experiences the world in her own way and that she’s unique, just like everyone else.
Discover Maria and Me: A father, a daughter (and Autism) here, and help us spread understanding and compassion about autism.
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Ages 13 to 18
A comic book story that gets teenagers talking about sexual consent. It invites them to debate what’s OK and what’s not OK and encourages them to consider other issues surrounding sexual consent, such as toxic masculinity, pornography and sexting. A set of questions and links to useful online videos can be found at the back to fuel classroom discussion.
This learning resource is taken from Pete Wallis and Thalia Wallis’ new graphic novel What Does Consent Really Mean? which follows a group of teenage friends chatting about the myths and taboos surrounding sex and consent.
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For 2017 the Stationers’ Company is launching a new Graphic Books category in their Shine School Media Awards. The Awards are open to all secondary schools and are designed to encourage team work and develop interest in the world of print and publishing.
JKP will consider the winning entry of the Graphic Books category for publication.
Guidelines for entry:
The winning entry will explore either:
- A contemporary social issue of your choice, such as poverty, refugees, migration, social inequality, homelessness, the situation of a minority
- Or, a mental health issue of particular concern to young people, such as anxiety, exam stress, bullying, lack of confidence, depression
The Graphic Book should aim to leave the reader understanding more about the subject of the book, even to have changed their mind about it. Great Graphic Books combine words and pictures to say something similar that neither words nor pictures can do separately. Consider how your images support the text, and vice versa.
- Entries may be in full colour, a restricted colour palette, or black and white
- Page size should be a minimum of 120mm x 170mm and a maximum of 210mm x 298mm
- Extent, a minimum 8 pages
- The Competition is open to all secondary schools in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Eire
- The closing date for entries is the 7th April 2017
For more information and to enter, visit the Shine School Media Awards website. We look forward to seeing your submissions!
When writing the text for What are you staring at?, a graphic novel about restorative justice in a school setting, I couldn’t resist taking a side-swipe at the antiquated system of school detentions, as a repost to the endlessly repeated rhetoric calling for ‘discipline’ to be brought back into the nation’s schools. By pointing out that more often than not, slapping a detention on a young person for wrong-doing is actively counterproductive, I hope to illustrate how ineffective a punitive system is for resolving behavioural issues or engendering self-discipline within a school community. In one of Joseph Wilkins’ most evocative images, our protagonist, Jake, is seen sitting alone in a large classroom. He is serving a detention for punching Ryan, a pupil in the year below, and we see him simmering with anger and resentment at the injustice of it all. At this point in the book, no one has taken the trouble to tease out the story behind his violent behaviour, and because the punishment hurts (as it is designed to) he is minded to take revenge on the very person he harmed in the first place – namely the innocent Ryan – for being the ongoing cause of his pain. Precious little scope there for reflection, understanding, resolution or healing. Continue reading