I was thrilled when this book arrived for me to read and review. I have been involved with CLPE’s Reflecting Realities in the Classroom project this year. Their research has highlighted the imbalance in the publishing world of books featuring Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic characters. Author, editor and writing coach Jasmine Richards is the founder of Storymix. This is a children’s fiction development studio that creates inclusive stories, and nurtures voices from under-represented backgrounds in children’s books. They aim to create heroes for every child, in order to break the cycle of children not seeing themselves represented in the books that they read. Jasmine Richards is the series creator behind The ‘Marvellous Granny Jinks and Me’, and now the ‘Future Hero’ series. Storymix are producing four books in this series, of which ‘Race to Fire Mountain’ is Book One. Each will be written under the pseudonym of Remi Blackwood, involving a collective of authors, held together with illustrations by Alicia Robinson.
Jasmine Richards said that when approaching publishers: ‘I pitched it as Black Panther meets Beast Quest’, and that’s not a bad introduction! Mixing magic and the mythology of Africa, this is an exciting new range of books aimed at 7 – 9 year olds.
Jarell is the main character. He loves to draw, doesn’t enjoy sport, and lives in the shadow of his cool, popular, older brother Lucas. Jarell always feels awkward and out of place compared to Lucas who seems to fit in effortlessly. Unless, that is, he is drawing the figures and technology that come into his imagination and seem to take over his thoughts.
When he loses his doorkey – yet again – Jarell escapes to his cousin Omari’s’ barbershop, Fades, which has undergone a makeover following a flood. Here Jarell meets his cousin’s new business partner Legsy. In the VIP suite Jarell notices an ornate, wooden framed mirror that he can’t resist touching. As he does so, he feels jolts like electricity pulling him in to another world that he can see moving in front of him. Jarell is taken aback to realise that the people and animals he sees in this mirror are his drawings, come to life!
Legsy (short for Olegu, God of Doorways) realises that Jarell has seen into the mirror and is actually the one who is going to rescue the realm of Ulfrika from Ikala the sorcerer. After Legsy carves a magical pattern into his hairdo, Jarell journeys to Ulfrika on the first of his quests. He encounters Kimisi, a warrior and apprentice to the goddess Ayana. Together they go in search of the first of the Iron Animals needed to complete the magical staff of Kundi.
I felt that there were lots of names of characters and places to keep up with, but that the fast moving, action packed plot made up for any confusion I might have had. Also, at the end of the book there are pages (a bit like Top Trumps cards), explaining the main characters and magical objects, as well as a sneak preview of Book Two. These were helpful, and I liked the extra details.
I would definitely recommend Future Hero for a Year 3 or 4 class – I think it would fit perfectly into their book corners. It’s great to see publishers taking notice of what children want to be reading and to see that Storymix are actively promoting a range of ethnically diverse books that will appeal to children. I’m already looking forward to seeing what happens in the rest of the series.
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