When her 10-year old daughter asked what Black Lives Matter meant, Jade was stumped. “At first, I didn’t have any answers,” she says. “You don’t want to say anything that might make them dislike others, or feel victimised.”
As a children’s author and illustrator, Jade Calder’s solution was to write a book, with her daughter Dior as the central character. “Explaining a complex issue through a story was, for me, the best way of putting the message out there in a positive way,” she says.
‘Mummy… What is Black Lives Matter?’ has now been published and is available from Jade’s website. “I’m delighted that Manchester City Council has just ordered a copy for each of the city’s libraries,” she says, “and I’ve love to see it in schools too.”
It’s not the first time Jade has been inspired by Dior, the eldest of her three daughters. “I wrote my first book in 2017,” she recalls. “Dior was getting bullied at school for her curly hair. I’d tell her they were just jealous and that she should learn to love her hair.
“I have naturally curly hair too, but I’d have it permed and would use hair straighteners. One day Dior turned to me and said, ‘You’re always telling me to love my hair but you use the magic hair stick to make your hair straight. Do you not love your hair?’ And I thought, she is right.
“She was seven at the time. It made me really sad. So I asked her, if I didn’t straighten my hair any longer, would that make her feel better? She said yes, and so I let my perm grow out and embraced my natural hair. That’s how I wrote my first book, the Magic Hair Stick.”
Jade’s ambition to write goes back to her childhood. Back then, because of her mum’s work commitments, she’d live part of the week with her Gran in Trafford, part with her mum in Longsight and weekends with her dad in Ardwick. “It was fun, but chaotic,” she recalls. “I was very disorganised… and still am!
“I remember at primary school I wrote a poem for a WH Smith competition… and mine was chosen and published. I think that inspired me to write in my diary and notebooks, but I never did anything with it.
“At high school I used to really enjoy those parts of the English curriculum where we were encouraged to write from our imaginations.”
As well as writing her books, Jade illustrates them too, but not in the conventional way. “Dior and I work together and I take photographs of her as the character in the book. I then use a cartoon app to transform them into cartoon-like images to which I add the text. I’m looking for an overall feel that’s colourful and vibrant.
“Dior loves seeing herself in the books. She’s always asking to do the next one. She inspires me to keep going.”
Jade’s books are published by Beaten Track Publishing and are available here.