Children’s books promote self-acceptance and inclusion

Phoebe Kirk (left) and Alice Reeves (right) with their Truth and Tails books at Waterstones, Brighton (Photograph:Adam Onishi)
Phoebe Kirk (left) and Alice Reeves (right) with their Truth and Tails books at Waterstones, Brighton (Photograph:Adam Onishi)

Gender, disability, fitting in and self worth are all themes which are addressed in four children’s books by a Brighton author.

Alice Reeves, along with illustrator Phoebe Kirk, decided to create stories tackling issues affecting young people.

Truth and Tails (Photograph:Adam Onishi)

Truth and Tails (Photograph:Adam Onishi)

The Truth and Tails books, which are aimed at four to eight-year-olds, include Molly the Mole, who feels sad because she doesn’t look the same as her friends, Vincent the Vixen, who comes to realise that they are actually a girl fox, Carlos the Chameleon, who changes his colours to try to fit in, and Roxy the Raccoon who uses a wheelchair, and whose friends help her discover ways she can be included.

Alice, who also runs BelongCon – a conference promoting inclusion and community – explained how the idea behind Truth and Tails came after reading children’s books which belonged to a friend.

“I was thumbing through them and thinking they were not really that great,” Alice said. “A lot of the books that stuck with me were the books that had a really strong message that made me feel happy or accepted.”

She decided she wanted to write meaningful books for children which tackle ‘hard-to-deal-with’ concepts in a clear and sensitive way.

“I was having a conversation about gender with someone, and I thought gender is not difficult, I’m sure I can explain it to a four-year-old. Vinnie the Vincent was the first idea I had.

“The reason it was so important for me to write about gender is I have a lot of trans friends, and I am just continually so shocked and appalled by the level of abuse they receive. In my first draft of the story I made so many mistakes in reference to the trans narrative. One of my trans friends said ‘don’t say it like that’. I took the criticism on.”

Alice felt it was also important to write about self-acceptance, as she believes it’s an issue that affects many children of school age.

“For Molly and Carlos it’s stuff that I, and a lot of my friends, have experienced,” Alice said. “Issues around comparing and changing yourself to fit in.”

The pair initially self-published the books, but they were released by Jessica Kinglsey Publishers in March.

The books, which are popular in schools, include teaching resources and discussion points.

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