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  • Writer's pictureJhalak Prize

Maisie Chan recommends five of her favourite books

Maisie Chan, winner of Jhalak Children’s & Young Adult Prize for her middle grade book book Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths (Piccadilly Press) recommends five books that influenced her as a person and writer.

I loved this book so much that I did my B.A. dissertation on it! I didn't grow up with a Chinese mother in my life, so I was fascinated by the prospect of what that relationship might have been like if I had and this book was all about the mother-daughter relationship. It was one of the few books I'd read with a myriad of Chinese diaspora characters. I remember crying whilst reading it and also later when I watched the film by Wayne Wang. I think it's one of the first books I read where I realised how much representation mattered.

I read this book with a lump in my throat and a heavy stone-like feeling in my chest. The book is narrated by a black boy who was shot by a policeman, his ghost seeks justice and answers. It's a book that makes you question things, feel anger, and have empathy. It's a brilliant and important book about black lives, police brutality, and about young lives taken too soon.

This is one of my favourite books. A.M. Dassu put her heart into this book. The detail and care that has been taken to chart the journey of a Syrian boy's life from his home country to the stark reality of a somewhat hostile Britain. It's well researched and beautifully written. One of the best things about the book is the sense that this could happen to anyone. Anyone in the world could become a refugee at some point in their lives.

This is a picture book but for all ages. It's a clever and also sad book (with a hopeful ending) that follows the life of a cicada who works everyday in a thankless office job where he is underappreciated and dispensable. I love the illustrations and the allegory about human existence. I think Shaun Tan is an immense talent and the power of pictures can be seen clearly in all of his work. What I appreciate with this book is that children and adults can both enjoy and understand this book and what it's trying to say.

Catherine Johnson is such a good writer! This novel is brilliant. It's historical so you learn something new about people of colour in England in the 1800s. It's full of intrigue and action. Is Princess Caraboo who she says she is? It's a great example of how you can push the boundaries of what young adult fiction is. It was one of the first YA books I read when I was starting to think about becoming a children's author and it made me realise how much variety there is out there for children and teens which was not the case when I was a child.

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