The World in Multicolour

Celebrate Empathy Day! 19 Books that Teach Empathy

in: Children's books

Today, we celebrate the first ever Empathy Day! And we are especially pleased because The Wooden Camel has been selected for the Read for Empathy Guide put together by Empathy Lab UK. Written by Wanuri Kahiu and Manuela Adreani, this is a story about the hopes and dreams of Etabo, a young boy who longs to be a camel racer. The Read for Empathy Guide lists 21 ‘must-reads’ endorsed by Nicolette Jones, the children’s book reviewer for The Sunday Times. You can download the Guide for free from the Empathy Lab’s website!

What is Empathy Day?

Empathy Day is ‘a platform to emphasise the importance of empathy in our divided world, and raise awareness of the power of stories to develop it.’ Books help children ‘lay strong foundations for resisting prejudice and intolerance,’ Miranda McKearney, founder of Empathy Day, states in a press release. These claims are supported by neuroscientific research that ‘shows that the emotions we feel for characters wires our brains to have the same sort of sensitivity towards real people.’

19 Books: Our favourite books that teach empathy

We were so inspired by Empathy Day that we created our own list! These books are close to the hearts of Lantana’s authors, illustrators, and staff.

Wanuri Kahiu recommends Tinga Tinga Tales: Why Giraffe Has a Long Neck by Claudia Lloyd and Edward Gakuya and Elmer by David McKee: ‘Why Giraffe Has a Long Neck is a beautiful story of friendship and how all animals of different sorts come together to help a friend in need. It is kind, compassionate and funny. We love reading it. We also love reading about Elmer who always seems a little different, but his difference is embraced and accepted. It is a beautiful book on friendship and love.’

Manuela Adreani recommends The Story of a Seagull and The Cat Who Taught Her to Fly by Luis Sepúlveda: ‘The sweet story of a cat that promises to care for the egg of a dying seagull. The empathy and love that the cat has for the baby seagull succeeds in engaging everyone – cats and humans – in teaching the little seagull how to fly.’

Abi Elphinstone recommends The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden: ‘Kizzy is a Diddakoi – a halfgypsy – and after her beloved grandmother dies, she finds herself victim to bullying, prejudice and hatred within the community. This is a book that champions outsiders, celebrates the beauty of vanishing cultures and upholds the values of compassion, courage and acceptance.’

Sharanya Manivannan recommends The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros: ‘Such a lovely book that encourages looking at people around you and seeing how we are interconnected.’

Gill Lewis recommends Small Finds a Home by Karin Celestine: ‘I love this book because it is about the power of simple acts of kindness. It is a story of how offering friendship without judgment or expectation enriches all our lives.’

Tutu Dutta recommends The Adventures of Beebo and Friends by Malaysian author Brigitte Rozario and Tan Vay Fern: ‘This is a series of five books (for ages 5-9) about a boisterous and fun-loving boy and his friends, who sometimes gets into scrapes. I chose these books because they teach young readers values such as empathy in a fun and engaging way.’

Mahtab Narsimhan recommends Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña: ‘I think it’s a wonderful story that shows readers how to appreciate what they have instead of wanting what they do not. Some lines in there are priceless, and are not just for kids. Adults can appreciate the subtle message, too!’

Joyce Chng recommends Accessing the Future edited by Djibril Al-Ayad and Kathryn Allan: ‘It is an anthology of speculative fiction that examines disability. Great for medical professionals and people who would want to learn more.’

Keilly Swift recommends Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and Frog and the Stranger by Max Velthuijs: ‘Teaching my baby girl that friends come in all shapes, sizes and shade!’

Geraldine McCaughrean recommends 4 books!: The Girl in Between by Sarah Carroll takes us inside the life of a woman who has sunk as low as life can take you and the child she took there with her. Love That Dog by Sharon Creech made me weep for a little boy who has lost his dearest possession. Island by Nicky Singer is about empathy temporarily mislaid between mother and son and discovered between man and animals. Little Bits of Sky by S.E. Durrant lets a reader experience how it feels to have no one permanent in your life, the damage it does and the healing possible when someone comes along who is prepared to show unqualified tenderness.’

Nadine Kaadan recommends Sky Blue Accident by Piet Grobler: ‘Such a creative and poetic children’s book!’

Katrina Gutierrez recommends Migrant by Maxine Trottier and Isabelle Arsenault: ‘My pick is a sweet story about a family of harvest labourers – Menonnites from Mexico who travel to Canada every spring – that uses imaginative metaphors to express the migrant child’s feelings, longings and optimism. They are migratory geese, then a litter of kittens cuddling for warmth, then a hive of worker bees. A clever and gentle way to encourage compassion for labouring migrants.’

Alice Curry recommends Shine by Filipino author Candy Gourlay: ‘I picked Shine because it is a book about accepting difference in other people but more importantly in ourselves. A gentle, sensitive novel that acknowledges our limitations but above all celebrates our immense capacity to love.’

And of course, we recommend The Wooden Camel!

This is what Empathy Lab has to say about why they recommend this book: ‘Everyone has dreams, and this story of a Turkana boy who longs to be a camel racer will resonate with children everywhere. Readers will empathise with the kind-hearted siblings desperate to find a way to make their youngest brother happy.’ 

Happy Empathy Day, everyone! We hope you enjoy these books as much as we do. 


Alice Curry is the *WINNER* of the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize 2017!

in: Cultural diversity

Representing Lantana and cheering Alice on were our co-director Caroline Godfrey and author and referee Tom Moorhouse

A huge congratulations to Alice Curry, our Founder and Publisher and fearless leader, for winning the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize! The judges called her a ‘great role model for future generations starting out in publishing’ and said she ‘stood out for her radical switch from academia to starting up a publishing business that puts her passion and knowledge to practical use’.

The Kim Scott Walwyn Prize celebrates the professional achievements of women of promise in the publishing industry. It is open to any woman who has worked in UK publishing for up to seven years. Alice was one of five inspirational women shortlisted for the award – all ‘forces of nature’ in publishing. These are: Amy Durant (Publishing Director, Endeavour Press), Candice Carty-Williams (Senior Marketing Executive, Vintage), Sarah Braybrooke (Managing Director, Scribe UK) and Zeljka Marosevic (Co-Publisher, Daunt Books Publishing).

Alice Curry with Mary Beard

Alice with Mary Beard who gave a fascinating speech about feminism in antiquity

Alice’s thoughts on winning the prize…

This is an incredible honour and – a day after the ceremony – it still hasn’t quite sunk in. Lantana is a tiny, independent publishing house with a mission to open up a space for diverse voices in children’s publishing and I’m so thrilled that this award signals a move in publishing towards its margins – a sign of a more inclusive and welcoming attitude towards young houses and towards those who aim to spot gaps and see opportunities and try to make change where change is needed.

I believe this award celebrates not just the achievements of individuals but a whole collective of people working together to make change in the industry. None of us would be where we are today without the support we constantly receive – from colleagues, family, friends – and it’s this support that allows women like me and the other shortlisted candidates to channel our vision and passion into businesses or imprints or campaigns with a heart and a social conscience.

Alice Curry Kim Scott Walwyn Prize

Kim Scott Walwyn’s parents, who proudly honour their daughter’s memory with this award

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my tiny team who are wonderful and who have backed me and my vision for Lantana from the start. I am also deeply grateful to Kim Scott Walwyn’s family and the judging panel for this incredible show of support and encouragement – it is a wonderful legacy and a real boost to the confidence of any woman starting out in this industry. My thanks also go to the sponsors of the prize – the Society of Young Publishers, National Book Tokens and the Publishing Training Centre – who offer much-needed financial support and formal training.

I want to acknowledge the other shortlistees – Amy, Candice, Sarah and Zeljka – who are all incredibly impressive women and will no doubt continue to achieve amazing things throughout their careers. And last but not least – to women in general, those often unsung heroes who contribute so invaluably to every business and every sector, just like Kim Scott Walwyn whose memory we honour with this prize.

Long may awards like this one inspire and encourage women – young or old – to take risks and dream big.’


Katrina and the Lantana team

Bringing drawings to life: an interview with Manuela Adreani

in: Children's books


Today, I caught up with brilliant Italian artist Manuela Adreani, illustrator of The Wooden CamelShe talked about her illustration process, the challenges and joys of creating art, and what she learnt about Kenya, where the book is set. Read on for a glimpse into the life of an award-winning illustrator!

Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them a few of your favourite things about living in Turin, Italy?

<img src="image.png" alt=""/>I have been drawing since I was young and I think creating is one of the most stimulating things. It is so fascinating to me. There’s something magical when I see the drawing coming to life. This is the reason why I’ve always chosen creative works.

I came to Turin to study animation. I was so lucky to find a job in an animation studio so soon after I finished a Master’s at IED (European Institute of Design), and so I decided to stay in Turin. Even though I can work from anywhere, it is difficult for me to leave. I rent a nice flat in the city centre, and so I can walk and use my bicycle to go anywhere. There’s a splendid veggie market so close to where I live! For a vegetarian, this is fantastic! Turin offers many cultural activities, too, and has many beautiful parks.

Do you think you have a particularly Italian or European illustration style?

I’ve never thought about it. I’d like to think that there are no borders. I love so many illustrators from all over the world, but I’ve noticed that when I draw, my mind often recalls the works of the great Italian painters.

Can you tell us how you go about creating your illustrations? What materials do you use?

I read the story a few times, and then I go through the words again and sketch a storyboard — in very small drawings that I almost don’t understand myself. When I’ve finished all the sketches, I draw them in their actual size. I scan the pencil drawings and colour them using Photoshop. I keep the pencil drawings and then I use brushes in the same way that I would use them on paper to give warmth to the end result. I love colouring. It makes me happy, dreamy and emotional. When I’m not very well I just can’t get the colours right.

Did you enjoy illustrating The Wooden Camel? What did you like about the story?

I did enjoy working on this story, although it was difficult because I knew so little about the Turkana people and I’ve never been to Africa in my life. I spent my time looking at the photos and videos I could find, trying to immerse myself in that place. The easiest part was to understand the loving attitude of the oldest sister of Etabo, because I am the oldest of three.

Have you learnt anything about Kenya that you didn’t know before? 

I really didn’t know the Turkana people so I had to learn how they live, what they do. They are so beautiful with their colourful beads and they have these delicate features. I love their sense of community. We don’t see that so much in the Occident.

Do you think it’s important that children have access to books that represent cultures other than their own?

It is very important to know other cultures. We live in a multicultural world, and knowing others through their stories is the only way we learn to respect and not be afraid of what might seem different from us.

What countries or cultures would you like to see represented more often in children’s books?

In my small career as an illustrator, I was lucky enough to illustrate covers showing the Indian culture and one story from the Native Americans, and then this story about the Turkana people in Africa. I guess I would like to see more of these kinds of books, as I don’t see them in Italian bookshops. We mostly have books representing Europe and America, as far as I can see, so there is a lot to do.

When you are not illustrating picture books, what other types of artwork do you create?

I still work on some animated series sometimes, and I find it very funny because it is almost like being an actor — which I could never be because I am a shy person.

<img src="image.png" alt=""/>Do you have any tips for aspiring illustrators?

This might seem funny, but my first advice is: take care of your eyes and the backs of your arms. Illustrators spend many hours sitting in a chair, and there are no holidays and few free weekends. Love what you do. And believe in yourself instead of the doubts that will always accompany you.

Thanks Manuela! You can find out more about Manuela and her beautiful and award-winning work here. To buy your copy of The Wooden Camel, please click here


Photo from Manuela Adreani.

Creating heaven on the backs of camels: an interview with Wanuri Kahiu

in: Children's books

<img src="image.png" alt=""/>This week, we celebrated the book birthday of The Wooden Camel.  To mark this special day, I called the book’s talented author, Wanuri Kahiu, and learnt about her home country Kenya and her delight in camels. She also told me about her version of heaven…

Congratulations on your first picture book, The Wooden Camel! Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

My name is Wanuri Kahiu and I am a storyteller — a filmmaker, mostly. And I live in Kenya.

What is The Wooden Camel about? 

The Wooden Camel is about a little boy who really, really, really wants to race camels but he’s too small. So his sister whittles him some wooden camels that he dreams to life, and rides them.

What are three things you think everyone should know about Kenya where The Wooden Camel is set?

We are a really generous people — we are very, very affectionate and loving. We have the most stunning landscapes on the face of the planet. And if you are accepted into a family, you are in that family forever and ever and ever. So if you are ever adopted by a Kenyan, it’s the best thing that could happen to you.

Why camels? And what made you decide to write a story about the Turkana people?

I’ve always been fascinated by the Turkana people, especially now since they are in a very challenging situation. Lake Turkana, the largest freshwater lake in the desert, is about to completely wither away because one side of the lake that supplies water is being dammed. The lake is on the verge of extinction. I’ve always felt a very special affinity towards that place and people, and so I try to draw awareness towards what’s happening in Turkana whenever I can. And why camels? Because I think they are one of the funniest creatures on earth. I think they have the silliest faces. And they spit, and they are long! They’re just the most curious creatures and I love them.

<img src="image.png" alt=""/>What do you think of Manuela Adreani’s illustrations for your book? Do you have a favourite illustration?

Oh my gosh, I love love love her illustrations. I LOVE them! I think they are so awesome and my favourite in the book — and I really want to frame it for my children’s room — is the one where Keti and Etabo are sitting in the tree. It’s so cute! You can have a boy and his goat, his best friend, in the tree at the same time and I just love it.

You are one of this year’s TED Fellows – congratulations! Can you tell us a bit about what this entails and what it means to be a role model for African girls & women everywhere?

I am really, really excited to be a TED fellow. I think it’s such an honour and it’s something that I have actively worked towards. I’ve been wanting to be a TED fellow for a long time and I never thought I could until I was ready. So I finally applied and I was amazed that I got in! Being a TED fellow is a dream come true. I don’t know if I’m a role model. I certainly hope that the work I do inspires. I’m excited to share my stories, especially with my children. They keep calling The Wooden Camel, ‘the camel book,’ and they keep asking to see it and when they’re going to get it. More than anything, I want to be able to leave work behind for my children so that they have an idea or a bit of an understanding about what I think about the world. So hopefully my work inspires them.

Can you tell me more about what it is you think about the world? What message do you hope children will glean from your story?

I have a friend who says that whenever he’s asked what his version of heaven is, he points to his work. I really believe in that. I believe that I create the people that I like in situations that are complicated and where they’re faced with such bravery and such courage. I feel like just the attitude itself is like a breath of heaven in the sense of a utopia, not necessarily a religious heaven, where we’re most at ease and most in sync with each other and we’re in harmony with the world and with the planet. In The Wooden Camel, I hope readers see that we all have dreams, and whether or not we know it, sometimes they’re fulfilled in ways we don’t foresee and they are fulfilled in ways that are not necessarily expected. So, it’s an encouragement to dream but to look for ways that dreams manifest because they don’t always come to you in the way that you expect — they don’t always manifest in the way that you imagine.

<img src="image.png" alt=""/>You have won many awards for your work as a filmmaker. What made you decide to write a children’s picture book? Can you share something about the differences between writing a picture book and writing a film?

I think writing a picture book is quite extraordinary because you’re sharing the story with the illustrator. So, when you begin to write and imagine, you do so without knowing how much the world will come to life, or how much more of the story can be told, not through words but through the illustrator. So it was this amazing orchestra of images and words that I had never expected that is kind of similar to film, because when you start writing film you don’t know what the final image is going to look like. You start to breathe one life into it, but when it’s taken on by the people that you’re working with, it becomes a completely different thing. And I think that’s the same thing that happened with The Wooden Camel.

Etabo dreamed of being a camel racer. Have you always dreamed of becoming a filmmaker?

I have always dreamed of becoming a filmmaker. It happened when I was sixteen. Before that, I wanted to be a nun, because I was in Catholic school, and a doctor, because my mother’s a doctor, and I wanted to be so many things. And then I realised that you could make film and it combined two of my favourite passions — being a telly addict and reading. And I was done! It’s a done deal.

Do you think it’s important that children have access to books that represent cultures other than their own?

Absolutely, and I can’t wait to get the whole Lantana collection! We already have Chicken in the Kitchen, and that was autographed by Nnedi [Okorafor]. My children love it. I think that if the very first sense of travel they have is through books, I would love that. I would love to introduce them to different places through what is being written by artists of those places.

And finally, can you give our aspiring authors any tips for their writing?

<img src="image.png" alt=""/>I think that the best thing to do when you’re an aspiring writer is to just write, and to write, and to write, and to write. I strongly encourage anybody who can to write and to find ways of writing. And even if you think that your story has been heard or is not original — whatever doubts you have, I still think you should write because you will always find an audience. And your first audience is yourself.

Thanks, Wanuri! You can find out more about Wanuri and her amazing work here. Watch her inspirational TED talks here. And to buy your copy of The Wooden Camel, please click here. 



in: Children's books

Happy book birthday to The Wooden Camel!


Etabo dreams of being a camel racer. One day he might even beat his older brother when they race. But with the price of water rising, Etabo’s father must sell the camels, and his siblings must find work. What will Etabo do now? This story of love and hope centres on the inspiring Turkana people of north-west Kenya.

Told with gentleness and humour, this heartwarming tale from Wanuri Kahiu and Manuela Adreani is about keeping one’s dreams alive.

Purchase your copy here!

‘Through its beautiful illustrations and charming story, this book opens a window into another culture while encapsulating a theme that will resonate with anyone who knows how it feels to hold onto their dreams against all odds.’ – Books for Topics

‘Beautifully illustrated! I smiled as I read this charming story of a young boy who finds unique ways to keep on believing even when it seems impossible.’ – Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed, African literature blog, Bookshy

‘Adreani’s scenes of the Turkana people of Kenya set against the harsh landscapes are truly beautiful and perfectly complement the soft, sympathetic humour of Kahiu’s text. A book to cherish, to share, ponder upon and discuss widely.’ – Jill Bennett, Red Reading Hub