Stormzy’s publishing imprint #Merky Books announces its first children’s book of Superheroes

Titled Superheroes: Inspiring Stories of Secret Strength, the comic-style publication aims to address the lack of representation in children’s books.

Date
29 June 2021
Reading Time
3 minute read

#Merky Books has announced its first children’s book, titled Superheroes: Inspiring Stories of Secret Strength and launching on 16 September 2021.

The book is in comic-strip style and illustrated by Denzell Dankwah, who’s currently studying a BA in illustration at the University of Gloucestershire. It also features over 50 British figures chosen by the publishing team plus British musician and #Merky Books founder Stormzy – who last year launched his single Superheroes and has written the book’s introduction. These figures include athlete Dina Asher-Smith, comedian Mo Gilligan, artist Yinka Ilori, writer Candice Carty-Williams, baker Liam Charles, model Jourdan Dunn, scientist Dr Ann-Marie Imafidon, writer-director Reggie Yates, former footballer Ian Wright plus many others spanning art, activism, sport, film, TV, music, science, food, fashion and literature.

According to research conducted by BookTrust, only seven per cent of children’s books published in the UK between 2017 and 2019 feature characters of colour. As such, Superheroes: Inspiring Stories of Secret Strength strives to combat this lack of representation with over 50 of its characters coming from underrepresented communities. “It was so important to us at #Merky Books to publish a children’s book filled with positive representation, allowing the younger generation to see themselves represented in a way that they may not have experienced before,” Tallulah Lyons, assistant editor at #Merky Books, says in the release. “Unfortunately, there is still a distinct lack of representation in children’s books and we know that it is vital that children see themselves in the books they read growing up.

Superheroes is packed full of amazing modern day ‘superheroes’, all of whom have taken their unique talent, passion and skill and have turned it into something extraordinary. I hope after reading this book, children everywhere are inspired and know that they can achieve whatever they set their mind to.”

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#Merky Books: Superheroes, Inspiring Stories of Secret Strength. Temi Fagbenle (Copyright © #Merky Books, 2021)

Inspired by the format of comics, the book sees each superhero share their own story and superpower, as told by Sophia Thakur, an award-winning performance poet, author and songwriter. Sophia says in the announcement: “The earliest seeds that are planted often influence the rest of the garden. If from a young age, we only really meet Blackness from a position of weakness, of slavery and shootings… stereotypes and racist media… as children, we don’t get an opportunity to develop a healthy and confident outlook on what it means to be Black. It was important to work on this book to plant a new seed of celebration. Of Black excellence into our young minds who will hopefully bloom into their very own superheroes. Confident and powerful.”

One of the superheroes featured is Rachael Corson, co-founding managing director of hair product company Afrocechix, who says of the book: “I want kids to look at what Joycelyn and I have achieved, two young Black girls that grow up poor in London, and know they can do anything they set their minds to and go after. I want others to fulfil their potential and live their best lives, knowing that the ‘heroes’ in this book have worked hard to pave the way for their greatness.”

#Merky Books was founded in 2018 by Stormzy and Penguin Random House UK, and has since become an award-winning publishing imprint that aims to create stories that are underrepresented in the industry. Additionally, Stormzy set up the #Merky Foundation as a registered UK charity in 2019, providing funding to organisations, charities and movements that are fighting racial inequality, justice reform and Black empowerment in the UK. Eight per cent of proceeds from Superheroes: Inspiring Stories of Secret Strength will be donated to the #Merky Foundation.

Last year for our feature Once upon a time, in the homogenous world of children’s book illustration…we spoke to illustrators and publishers about the despairing lack of diverse representation in children’s book characters and the people who create them, looking to explore why it happens and how it can change.

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#Merky Books: Superheroes, Inspiring Stories of Secret Strength. Ikram Abdi (Copyright © #Merky Books, 2021)

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#Merky Books: Superheroes, Inspiring Stories of Secret Strength. Ian Wright (Copyright © #Merky Books, 2021)

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#Merky Books: Superheroes, Inspiring Stories of Secret Strength. Mo Gilligan (Copyright © #Merky Books, 2021)

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#Merky Books: Superheroes, Inspiring Stories of Secret Strength. Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon (Copyright © #Merky Books, 2021)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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