Secrets! A Guest Post by Caroline England, Author of Beneath The Skin

beneath the skin

I love a psychological read and am fascinated by what we reveal and conceal as humans so when Caroline England, author of Beneath the Skin, agreed to tell me a bit about her views on secrets I was thrilled to welcome her to Linda’s Book Bag. Beneath the Skin is on my TBR and so many fellow bloggers are telling me how great it is that I can’t wait to read it.

Beneath the Skin was published by Avon Books on 5th October 2017 and is available for purchase here.

Beneath the Skin

beneath the skin

Three women. Three secrets.

Antonia is beautiful and happily married. Her life is perfect. So why does she hurt herself when nobody’s watching?

Sophie is witty, smart and married to the best-looking man in town. She likes a drink, but who doesn’t?

Olivia is pretending to be a happy wife and mother. But her secret could tear her family apart.

Their lies start small, they always do. But if they don’t watch out, the consequences will be deadly.


A Guest Post by Caroline England

Everybody has a secret. Yes, you do! A study revealed that the average person keeps thirteen secrets, five of which he or she has never shared with anyone. Go on, count them! They can range from those little things many people do that don’t really feel illegal, such as nicking a five pence plastic bag without paying, or exaggerating expenses at work, to major crimes such as hit and run incidents or even murder. Then there are affairs, betrayals and hidden relationships, with devastating consequences, to easy small lies to cover up mundane events such as covertly looking for another job or concealing the early weeks of a pregnancy. Or perhaps a person’s secret is simple unhappiness. Don’t we all do it sometimes? Put on our bright facade for the Facebook posts and photos to hide the occasional dissatisfaction with our lives?

Then there’s those family secrets which only come out when great Auntie Ethel has too much sherry at Christmas. You know, when you spurt out your bucks fizz in surprise – your Grandad was a bigamist; your dad and mum married when she was five months pregnant with your older sister, your cousin’s on the game…

All my novels have a slow unfurling of secrets, not least my debut, Beneath the Skin. The title says it all! What is underneath the veneer of these apparently happy and successful characters? Antonia has a dark secret, but so do Sophie and Olivia, David and Sami, lies which could blow their lives apart. Then there’s my next book, due out next May. Guess what it’s called? Yup, My Husband’s Lies!

OK, I admit it; I am a bit obsessed with secrets and lies and the human condition. I’m an amateur psychologist, driving my family bonkers with my interpretations of other people’s behaviour, what they say, but don’t mean; what they reveal by their faces but don’t say! Is it only me who is intrigued about what ‘goes on behind closed doors’? Isn’t there something just a little thrilling to discover the couple who always looked so loved up outside the cafe on a Saturday morning are actually getting a divorce? Or that the snob of the avenue was arrested for shoplifting?

I probably have thirteen secrets. I know they’re supposed to burrow into our psych and poison us, but I actually like them. Maybe it was because I was the youngest of five children; perhaps it was having to share a dormitory of 17 other girls when I was eight. You can be by yourself with a secret. It’s something you can do on your own! Hm, perhaps I shouldn’t have said that – now I’m in danger of amateur psychologists starting on me…

(Woo – I’d love to know those secrets Caroline! Now I’m off to count my own…)

About Caroline England

Caroline England

Born Yorkshire lass, Caroline studied Law at the University of Manchester and stayed over the border. Caroline was a divorce and professional indemnity lawyer and instigated her jottings when she deserted the law to bring up her three lovely daughters. In addition to the publication of her short story collection, Watching Horsepats Feed the Roses by ACHUKA books, Caroline has had short stories and poems published in a variety of literary publications and anthologies. She was shortlisted for the Impress Prize 2015, in the Pulp Idol 2016 finals and long listed for the UK Novel Writing Competition 2017.

Her debut novel, Beneath the Skin, was published by Avon HarperCollins on 5 October 2017. Her second novel My Husband’s Lies will be published by Avon HarperCollins on 3 May 2018.

You can follow Caroline on Twitter @CazEngland and find her on Facebook.

An Interview with Ellis Shuman, Author of The Burgas Affair

The Burgas Affair by Ellis Shuman 400x625

Sometimes in my life it feels like truth is stranger than fiction and the things that happen couldn’t actually be made up! Today, I’m delighted to welcome Ellis Shuman to Linda’s Book Bag as his latest novel, The Burgas Affair, has both truth and fiction combined.

Published on 30th October 2017, The Burgas Affair is available for purchase from your local Amazon site.

The Burgas Affair

The Burgas Affair by Ellis Shuman 400x625

She’s an Israeli data analyst. He’s a headstrong Bulgarian detective. Together they must track down those responsible for a horrific bombing.

In the wake of a deadly terrorist attack at Burgas Airport in Bulgaria, Israeli and Bulgarian intelligence agencies launch a joint investigation. Detective Boyko Stanchev on the police task force teams up with Ayala Navon, a young Israeli intelligence analyst on her first overseas assignment.

The two must establish whether the terrorists were assisted by a Bulgarian crime organization in laying the groundwork for the attack.

It should be a routine investigation, but shadows of the past keep interfering.

Boyko’s interactions with a crime boss pursuing a vendetta against him threaten to throw him off track. Ayala’s pursuit of the terrorists and their accomplices brings up painful memories of a family tragedy.

Boyko and Ayala form a shaky alliance, one that evolves into growing cooperation and affection as they desperately race against time to uncover who was behind the Burgas bombing.

An Interview with Ellis Shuman

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Ellis. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and The Burgas Affair in particular. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

I describe myself as an American-born Israeli author who writes about Bulgaria. I was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and moved to Israel as a teenager with my family. I served in the Israeli army, was a founding member of a kibbutz, and raised a family in a community outside Jerusalem. I work in online marketing and for two years, my job was relocated to Sofia, Bulgaria (2009-2010). When I returned home to Israel, I fictionalized my impressions of Bulgaria and have written two suspense novels set in that amazing country.

When did you realise you were going to be a writer?

Growing up, my father was a journalist and he inspired me to tell stories. One of my earliest writing memories was when I went knocking on neighbours’ doors as a ten-year-old, asking each family what it was doing that summer. The result was a neighbourhood newsletter I published and sold for ten cents a copy.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

I enjoy writing, but I enjoy editing even more. I quickly write first drafts, but then I take my time editing them, filling out descriptions and making better word choices. I believe editing really brings one’s writing to life.

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

The most difficult thing for me as a writer, is finding the time to write. I solved this by making early morning visits to a coffee shop. Before I go to work each day, I spend an hour writing. Uninterrupted with a cup of coffee next to my laptop. It’s a regular routine that I have been maintaining for years.

You’re from a mixed heritage background. How has this shaped you as a writer do you think?

I grew up with dreams of becoming an author. I have been writing stories, book reviews, travel reports, newspaper articles, blog posts, and much more all my life. I have made many attempts to write a novel but I could not find the perfect setting and unique voice to tell the story I wanted to tell. After my two-year stay in Bulgaria, I realized that I could use that location as the setting for my novels. This experience gave a direction to my writing as I wanted to share Bulgaria with readers.

You’ve worked in an eclectic range of professions. How have they added to your experience as a writer?

Although I’ve never been a detective, or a secret agent, I can picture in my mind what those professions must be like. Much of my writing, however, is based on my true life experiences. Many Bulgarians who have read my writing said that it accurately describes their country, and they are pleased because not many authors write about Bulgaria.

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about The Burgas Affair?

A headstrong Bulgarian detective is teamed up with an Israeli data analyst on her first assignment overseas as part of a joint investigation to track down the terrorists responsible for a horrific bombing attack.

The Burgas Affair is based on real events. How did you go about researching detail and ensuring it was realistic?

Having lived in Bulgaria, I could easily picture the country and therefore I was able to describe it in the eyes of both a native-born Bulgarian and an Israeli woman seeing it for the first time. I had been to Burgas Airport, where the bombing took place. In addition to my first-hand experiences, I was able to get further information from my contacts and friends in Bulgaria. And finally, I followed media reports of the investigation. Some of the details, and the names of those involved, were fictionalized in my novel, but the terrorist attack was very real.

I know you’ve lived in Bulgaria. How far did this affect your decision about where to set The Burgas Affair?

My first novel, Valley of Thracians, was set entirely in Bulgaria. It is a thriller that tells the story of a Peace Corps volunteer who goes missing in the country. The story takes place in cities and towns I’ve visited and the Bulgarian culture I describe is what I experienced in the country. In my new novel, The Burgas Affair, I combined my love of Bulgaria with my love of Israel. I had been searching for ways to feature both of these countries in my writing. Unfortunately, the terror attack at Burgas Airport in Bulgaria gave me a way to make this happen. But on the other hand, in the aftermath of the attack I was able to achieve my goal.

Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions Ellis.

About Ellis Shuman


Ellis Shuman was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and immigrated to Israel as a teenager. He completed high school in Jerusalem and served for three years in the Israeli army’s Nahal branch. Along with his wife, Jodie, he was a founding member of Kibbutz Yahel in the Arava Valley in Israel’s south. On the kibbutz he worked in agriculture, industry, tourism, the dairy barn, and served as the kibbutz’s general secretary.

After moving with his wife and three young children to Moshav Neve Ilan in the Judean Hills, Ellis received formal training in the hotel industry. He worked in a variety of positions at the Neve Ilan Hotel and later was Food and Beverage Controller at the Jerusalem Hilton. He served as the moshav’s general secretary during a period in which the community underwent major social changes.

As a hobby, Ellis began writing on the Internet. He wrote extensively about life in Israel in his position as the Israeli Culture Guide at He designed and maintained websites for the Neve Ilan Hotel and for Indic—Independent Israeli Cinema. For two years he was webmaster for Yazam, an international financial firm that provided support for technological start-ups.

Ellis served for three years as Editor in Chief of Israel Insider, an online daily newsmagazine that developed new technologies as it posted the latest news and views, from and about Israel.

Starting in 2004, Ellis began working in a marketing company servicing the online gaming industry. In the years 2009 – 2010, his job was relocated to Sofia, Bulgaria. During those years, Ellis and Jodie traveled extensively in Bulgaria as well as in the countries of the region. Today Ellis continues working in the online gaming industry in Tel Aviv.

You can follow Ellis on Twitter @ellisshuman. You can visit Ellis’s blog and find him on Facebook too.

An Interview With Rita Bradshaw, Author of A Winter Love Song


I’m delighted that A Winter Love Song is on my TBR as I think it looks gorgeous. Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Rita Bradshaw, author of A Winter Love Song, to Linda’s Book Bag to tell us a bit more about it.

Published by Pan Macmillan on 16th November 2017, A Winter Love Song is available for purchase through these links.

A Winter Love Song


Bonnie Lindsay is born into a travelling fair community in the north-east in 1918, and when her mother dies just months later, Bonnie’s beloved father becomes everything to her. Then at the tender age of ten years old, disaster strikes. Heartbroken, Bonnie’s left at the mercy of her embittered grandmother and her lecherous step-grandfather.

Five years later, the events of one terrible night cause Bonnie to flee to London where she starts to earn her living as a singer. She changes her name and cuts all links with the past.

Time passes. Bonnie falls in love, but just when she dares to hope for a rosy future, WW2 is declared. She does her bit for the war effort, singing for the troops and travelling to Burma to boost morale, but heartache and pain are just around the corner, and she begins to ask herself if she will ever find happiness again?

An Interview With Rita Bradshaw

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Rita. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and A Winter Love Song in particular. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

Would love to!  I’ve been married for 48 years to my lovely husband, have three children and six grandchildren who are the best thing ever, and besides them my passion is animal welfare (and writing of course!)

Why do you write?

I write because I breathe, it’s as natural and basic as that. I’ve always had myriad stories in my head and if I had never been published, I would still have to get them down on paper or burst!

When did you realise you were going to be a writer?

I realised I wanted to be a writer about the age of four or five when I started to read books and went into another world that was magical and wonderful. I realised I was going to be a writer when I got my first book published which resulted in an actual pay cheque!

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

The easiest is the characters themselves because they come to life and dictate the story. I think most writers have one foot in the real world and one in the world of the people they’re writing about. Weird but true! The most difficult is time – as a wife / mum / grandma / dog lover etc., I have to discipline myself to sit down and work as it is my job.

(That’s a really important point I think as so many authors tell me people don’t see writing as a ‘proper’ job.)

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

I do my writing in my study at home with my dog at my feet and with a view of the garden and the birds. I start about 11 o’clock after two huge mugs of tea and watching Homes under the Hammer, and correct work from the previous day first before getting on with the story. A snack at lunch and then I write till 6ish when we walk the dog before dinner.

(That made me laugh aloud as I love Homes Under the Hammer!)

You’re a prolific writer. How do you manage to keep your writing fresh and varied for your readers?

If you look at the millions of people in the world they all have different stories to tell. My characters all become real to me with their own distinct tragedies and afflictions, as well as good times.

I know you’re very keen on theatre and cinema. How far do these performing arts impact on your style as a writer? Are you more aware of the senses of sight and sound? Is your writing more visual as a result?

Interesting question! I guess I’ve always been drawn to films and plays featuring a bygone age rather than bang up to date. So much rich material I guess. Having said that I love the Twilight films…

From as long as I can remember I’ve been acutely aware of the world around me. Even smells, such as wood smoke, conjure up a wealth of material I must have stored somewhere in my brain.

Of which of your books are you most proud and why?

I love The Colours of Love. It deals with racial prejudice which I find abhorrent. My first book The Twisted Cord is also close to my heart because it was my late mother’s favourite; she read it countless times.

How far does your own enduring marriage assist you in writing about those whose relationships are less consistent?

I guess that’s where imagination comes in. I imagine how I’d feel if I was left alone or betrayed, if I lost Clive or he was taken from me and also how I’d feel if I’d never had that firm foundation of true love.

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about A Winter Love Song?

This is a story of winning against the odds. Bonnie, my heroine, has a rotten start to life but through sheer guts she changes the path of her life and becomes a famous singer. Of course, things don’t run to plan!

You’ve featured the travelling community in your writing before. What in the attraction for you in writing about travellers?

I love exploring different cultures and traditions. I’ve written about Romany gypsies before but their community was very different to the fair folk in A Winter Love Song, and indeed the fair community in the present book are again different to modern day ones.

How did you go about researching detail and ensuring A Winter Love Song was realistic?

Research is an absolute joy to me and I lose myself in it. I obtain material from libraries / museum archives / books / old ordinance survey maps / railway timetables etc etc. If I’m not absolutely sure about something it doesn’t go in the book. I don’t use the internet – I prefer “in my hand material”.

(How interesting. I think many writers rely totally on the Internet!)

If you could choose to be a character from A Winter Love Song, who would you be and why?

I’d love to be Bonnie because she has a lovely voice (if you heard me sing you’d know why I’d like that!)

If A Winter Love Song became a film, who would you like to play Bonnie and why would you choose them? 

I’d like Kristen Stewart to play Bonnie. She looks like Bonnie but as an actress she has the right mix of strength and vulnerability to portray Bonnie as I see her.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?

Anything and everything. I’ve no particular genre I stick to. I enjoy crime thrillers / supernatural / sagas / non-fiction, the lot. I enjoy something meaty though, as if it’s too light it can’t hold me.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that A Winter Love Song should be their next read, what would you say?

If you want a story that will grab you from the first page – read this!

(Oh, I will!)

Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions Rita.

My pleasure and thank you for your time and interest.

Best regards


About Rita Bradshaw

Rita B author photo own credit

Rita Bradshaw was born in Northamptonshire, where she lives today. At the age of sixteen she met her husband – whom she considers her soul mate – and they have two daughters and a son, and several grandchildren. To her delight, Rita’s first novel was accepted for publication and she has gone on to write many more successful novels since, including the number one bestseller Dancing in the Moonlight.

As a committed Christian and passionate animal lover her life is full, but she loves walking her dogs, reading, eating out and visiting the cinema and theatre, as well as being involved in her church and animal welfare.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Blog Tour Artwork for A Winter Love Song

The Bedtimeasnaurus by Mike Bayliss

The Bedtimeasnaurus

I may be hurtling towards 60 but I love children’s books and am delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for The Bedtimeasnaurus by Mike Bayliss. I’m especially pleased as Mike has used a devastating health diagnosis to positive effect and I salute him for it.

The Bedtimeasnaurus is available for purchase here.

The Bedtimeasnaurus

The Bedtimeasnaurus

A charming collection of gorgeously illustrated poems to encourage fun and bedtime bonding between parents and their children.

The bright pink flamingosaurus spends its day standing on one leg looking for something to eat. The round and delicious tomatosaurus sings a tune while soaking up the sun. These are just two of the imaginative and amusing dinosaurs dreamed up in The Bedtimeasnaurus, the sometimes naughty and always hilarious poetry collection for children by Mike Bayliss.

Developing the idea for over thirty years while working on other projects, Bayliss was encouraged to publish his collection after being diagnosed with Stage IV non-Hodgkin lymphoma in April 2017, using his work as a positive outlet for his energy as he worked to recover.

Complimented by charming illustrations, opportunities for kids to draw their own dinosaur creations and simple quizzes on each of the characters, The Bedtimeasnaurus not only provides an entertaining read for young children before they go to sleep but also offers a valuable chance for parents to connect and engage.

My Review of The Bedtimeasnaurus

My usual slight children’s book review issue applies to The Bedtimeasnaurus as I always prefer children’s books that don’t use upper case letters in a lower case setting, because I like to see the style we’d like children to use in their own writing modelled for them.

That small gripe aside, I absolutely loved this book. It’s creative, fabulously illustrated and full of slightly rude aspects that children will adore. There’s burping, pumping, nose picking and several mentions of the word ‘bum’ that my great nephew would find hilarious. I liked the pun in the title too.

There’s a brilliant rhyme scheme throughout so that children can see and experiment with homophones and I thought the layout for the Flamingo-asarus that mirrored the standing on one leg was genius.

Following the imaginative rhymes and invented dinosaurs are really good activity pages too. Theres a task to get children looking back over the book to find different dinosaurs, a space to invent a Bedtimeasnaurus and to create a poem. I think the vibrancy of the book would engage even the most relucatant readers and writers in these tasks.

The Bedtimeasnaurus is a super children’s book and I really recommend it.

About Mike Bayliss


Born in Walsall West Midland, UK, Bayliss is an entrepreneur that owns companies in several industries including building supply and property development. He also owns Bespoke Brewery, which opened in 2012 and has since won a number of awards for its craft beer. He lives with his wife and three children in Forest Dean, UK. This is his first book. 

You can find The Bedtimeasnaurus on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

The Bedtimesnaurus_Banner

The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

the art of hiding

I love Amanda Prowse, both as a writer and as a person, so when The Art of Hiding arrived from her in exchange for an honest review I had a qualm or two because I have so loved other of her books as you can see:

My review of Another Love is here.

My review of My Husband’s Wife is here.

My review of The Food of Love is here.

My review of The Idea of You is here.

I have also been privileged to interview Amanda here.

Published by Lake Union, The Art of Hiding is available for purchase here.

The Art of Hiding

the art of hiding

What would you do if you learned that the life you lived was a lie?

Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

Bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this stirring and empowering tale of one woman’s loss and love.

My Review of The Art of Hiding

When Nina finds herself suddenly widowed, she’s about to lose more than her husband.

Oh my goodness. Ordinarily I love an Amanda Prowse book but The Art of Hiding is the author at her very best so that it is a total joy to read.

The Art of Hiding has all the typical Amanda Prowse elements I adore. Firstly there’s the wonderful characterisation so that even the absent Finn is knowable and real. Nina is the lynchpin of the action and she channels the emotion in a totally absorbing way making her a woman anyone can relate to, regardless of gender or circumstance. Both her sons, Connor and Declan, are real triumphs as I’m not usually impressed by the way children are represented in fiction, frequently finding them clichéd. Here, however, they are wonderfully drawn as genuine people.

As always with an Amanda Prowse book, I experienced a wide range of emotions and shed several tears – a sure sign I’ve enjoyed the read! More importantly, I though she handled the overarching theme of the book – that material possessions are not what we need to make us happy – so skilfully. Reading The Art of Hiding made me reassess what is important in my life and delivers a wonderful lesson without preachiness or dogma, but rather through a smashing plot and people I came to care about as I read. Other themes of identity and love, family and friendship all enhance the story faultlessly.

I thought the book’s structure was really interesting as much of the drama in the plot comes in the early part of the book with more focus on relationships in the later sections. I found this structure mirrored the messages behind the writing perfectly so that I had the chance to get to know the characters fully and engage with them completely.

What I find so powerful about reading a book by Amanda Prowse, and what she does do superbly in The Art of Hiding, is that essentially she not only writes about love in its various forms, but she seems to write with love too, making reading her books a very special experience indeed.

About Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse is an International Bestselling author who has published sixteen novels in dozens of languages. Her chart topping No.1 titles What Have I Done?Perfect Daughter and My Husband’s Wife have sold millions of copies around the world.

Other novels by Amanda Prowse include A Mother’s Story which won the coveted Sainsbury’s eBook of the year Award and Perfect Daughter that was selected as a World Book Night title in 2016. Amanda’s book The Food of Love went straight to No.1 in Literary Fiction when it was launched in the USA and she has been described by the Daily Mail as ‘The Queen of Drama’ for her ability to make the reader feel as if they were actually in the story.

Now published by Lake Union, Amanda Prowse is the most prolific writer of contemporary fiction in the UK today; her titles also score the highest online review approval ratings for several genres.

You can follow Amanda Prowse on Twitter and visit her web site here. You will also find her on Facebook.

All of Amanda Prowse’s wonderful writing is available here .

Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Fiction: A Guest Post by Patricia Furstenberg


A little while ago I reviewed (here) a charming children’s book Puppy: 12 months of Rhymes and Smiles by Patricia Furstenberg. As I feel books are an essential part of growing up and a child’s develoment I asked Patricia if she would like to return to Linda’s Book Bag to tell me a bit about diversity in writing, especially as she’s celebrating three new Chilren’s books this month; The Elephant and the Sheep, The Cheetah and the Dog and The Lion and the Dog.

Before you read Patricia’s brilliant guest post, find out a bit about her new books.

The Elephant and the Sheep

Pat Furstenberg-Elephant-Sheep

The Elephant and the Sheep, sure to touch a deep chord, particularly with fans of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

When a curious lamb meets a friendly elephant calf he soon discovers the secret behind the elephant’s lonely life. Sharing means so much more than material things.

You can find out more on Amazon UK, Amazon US, and Goodreads.

The Cheetah and the Dog

Pat Furstenberg-Cheetah-Dog.v2

The Cheetah and the Dog, sure to resonate with families – particularly non-traditional ones as well as with the fans of Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”.

When a cheetah cub and a puppy dog bump into each other no one can foresee that their blooming friendship will save many lives, thus becoming the core of an African folktale.

You can find out more on Amazon UK, Amazon US, and Goodreads.

The Lion and the Dog

Pat Furstenberg-Lion-Dog

The Lion and the Dog, sure to strike a chord with the many fans of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”.

When a lion is crowned King of a zoo he becomes a secluded beast with no visitors but an observant and determined little brown dog. Learn how optimism and kindness can changes even a wild animal into a friend for life.

You can find out more on Amazon UKAmazon US and Goodreads.

Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Fiction

A Guest Post by Patricia Furstenberg

What is a normal lifestyle? I live in a country with 11 official languages. It is normal for us. Apart from English, schools in South Africa teach compulsory and optional classes in Afrikaans, Zulu, Sepedi, Tsonga, Tswana, Xhosa, Venda etc. To make things even more complex, languages like French, German, Portuguese or Greek are also taught! My children attend a school alongside friends with different religions, originating from all the continents of the world. Once back home, each one of these children will return to the nest of their own cultures. To them, this is a normal lifestyle.

Going back to my native country, snuggled in the oldest continent in the world, I notice how much things have changed since I grew up. How much more diverse people are today and how, nationality wise, there is a wider spread now, than during my childhood. It is a normal lifestyle for current times, market by human migration.

For our children’s generation life is like strolling through a library of live books.


“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” Maya Angelou.

Reading brings us in touch with our humanity.

The act of reading and having access to diverse stories offers children a window towards real life, the one outside their homes. Towards the kind of life people from different countries and cultures lead. Towards their struggles, feelings and values; how and why are they similar or different to our own. Reading expands our children’s understanding and widens their acceptance.

Diversity and its meaning in the book industry.

The fact that different people, men AND women, white AND black, can write books, is often a revelation for many young readers. “If they can do it, so can I!” The book monopoly doesn’t belong only to the white male writer anymore. It belongs to the young, to the woman, to the indie author as well. And this variety can be empowering for many young readers.

An empowered young girl will grow into a strong, self-confident, open minded woman that will not be intimidated to discover and follow her own path.

I want you to read this passage:

The boy ran down the road, dust billowing all around him. He ran as fast as he could, his skinny legs barely touching the sharp rocks, his small body a ghost past the barking dogs; they always barked at his kind. He watched them, though, out of the corner of his eye, his hand tight on the stick he had picked up by the bridge, as soon as he left the field. How far to the doctor’s house? “Just after the first bend in the road”, his grandpa had whispered. “Run, boy, run…”

Where do you picture this scene taking place?

Now read the text again.

Cheng ran down the road, dust billowing all around him. He ran as fast as he could, his skinny legs barely touching the sharp rocks, his small body a ghost past the barking dogs; they always barked at his kind. He watched them, though, out of the corner of his eye, his hand tight on the stick he had picked up by the bridge, as soon as he left the field. How far to the doctor’s house? “Just after the first bend in the road”, yeye had whispered. “Run, Cheng, run…”

And now, where is the scene taking place?

Why the difference? Because in our minds we’re used to picture the characters based on our own frame of reference, shaped by the literature we’ve been exposed to throughout our lives.

The cultures least represented in literature are not the ones which are missing out because, within their own frontiers, they often have an extensive oral tradition. Their stories are still passed on through generations, teaching valuable life lessons. It is the rest of the world that’s missing on reading them.

Diversity in children’s books is a two way street.

First, more children get to read about their own culture, feeling empowered because it mirrors their race, inter-race, religion, sex or physical health, home up-bringing (divorced families, immigrants, single parent families). Children feel good about themselves when they read about characters like them.

Second, the rest of the world is exposed to a different culture, therefor gaining in diversity and humanity. Because the same story can be told from many angles, in a multitude of languages, each time becoming a new narration with a new lesson to communicate.

We need diverse books for diverse minds. Aren’t all children’s favorites exactly those stories about unique, strong individuals? Beautiful characters, inside and out.

We live in a world that’s confronted, more than ever, with a wide variety of issues we can’t ignore anymore. Global warming and social migration, be it willing or forced; terrorism and out of control political spectacles that impact more and more individuals.

Diverse books will offer our children the right tools to understand and deal with the global uproar they’ll have to live in. Access to diverse books will, hopefully, grant our children the strength and wisdom to understand themselves and the world they live in and unlock their own powers; to stand on their own two feet and lead a life of humanity and empathy.

(I couldn’t agree with you more Patricia. Thanks so much for coming on Linda’s Book Bag.)

About Patricia Furstenberg

Author head

Patricia Furstenberg came to writing though reading. After completing her Medical Degree in Romania she moved to South Africa where she now lives with her husband, children and their dogs. Patricia became taking writing seriously  after becoming one of the WYO Christie winners. She enjoys writing for children  because she can take abstract, grown-up concepts and package them it in attractive, child-friendly ways while adding sensitivity and lots of love.

All of Patricia’s children’s books are available here.

You can follow Patricia on Twitter, find her on Facebook and visit her website. She’s also on Goodreads.

Sweet William by Iain Maitland

Sweet William Cover

I cannot thank Diana Morgan at Ruth Killick Publicity enough for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for Sweet William by Iain Maitland and providing a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Published by Contrabrand, the crime imprint of Sarabrand, Sweet William is available for purchase here.

Sweet William

Sweet William Cover

Life and death played out over 48 hours.

A father desperate to be with his young son escapes from a secure psychiatric hospital, knowing he has just one chance for the two of them to start a new life together. His goal is to snatch the three-year-old – a diabetic who needs insulin to stay alive – and run away to France … but first he must find the boy, evade his foster family and stay well clear of the police, already in pursuit.

A real page-turner cut through with dark humour, Sweet William zeroes in on a potent mix: mental illness, a foster family under pressure, and an aggrieved father separated from his precious child. The result is an incisive and deeply affecting literary thriller.

My Review of Sweet William

Don’t you just love it when a book is so good you have to put your whole life on hold until you’ve devoured every word? That’s exactly what Sweet William is like.

From the very first word of Sweet William I was hooked. The writing is fantastic. Partly it’s the superbly created voice of the narrator so that I was inside his dubious head with him. Partly it’s the overall quality of the writing with the rhetorical questions and the stunning sentence structure that has maximum impact on the reader. And partly it’s the breathtaking pace of the plot over 48 hours that left me reeling. I genuinely felt tense the whole time I was reading but, although I had to pause to let my pulse slow back down, I couldn’t tear myself away. Several times I found I wasn’t actually breathing! Sweet William is a book that clamours to be read at breakneck speed.

The first person viewpoint is very disturbing. It’s not always clear to whom the narrator is speaking – the reader, a voice in his head, or perhaps someone beyond the end of the novel in the same way he has had therapy in the past. What I found both compelling and appalling was that the way in which he justified his actions, which are clearly insane, was only a short step away from the way in which we ‘normal’ people justify our own actions too. I don’t know whether the concept of the way we treat those with psychiatric health issues and the exploration of how they think and behave was a deliberate treatise by Iain Maitland or simply a device upon which to construct the plot but either way I found Sweet William stunning and thought provoking. Similarly, not knowing the name of the narrator until well into the second half of the novel adds to that feeling of society rejecting and erasing those with his kind of problems.

I can’t say too much about the plot or the settings as they are so closely linked and I don’t want to spoil the read but I will say that when Stamford, a location just a few miles from where I live, was mentioned I actually felt quite nervous and threatened.

I felt the concept of ‘what if’ was brilliantly handled, making my brain reel with possibilities. What if it were my child? What if I felt responsible? What if my mental health broke down?  There are also several unanswered questions in Sweet William that make the book so very disturbing so that it keeps nagging away in my mind. Sweet William is a book I won’t forget in a hurry. In my view it is outstanding.

About Iain Maitland

Iain maitland

Iain Maitland is the author of Dear Michael, Love Dad (Hodder, 2016), a moving book of letters written to his son, who suffered from depression and anorexia. Iain is an ambassador for Stem4, the teenage mental health charity, and gives regular talks about mental health issues in the workplace. A writer since 1987, he is a journalist and has written more than 50 books, mainly on business, which have been published around the world.

You can find Iain Maitland on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @iainmaitland and visit his website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Sweet William poster