Joyful, Joyful

20 Stories by BRILLIANT Black Creators from Around the World

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Pub Date 16 May 2024 | Archive Date 08 Jan 2024

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A collection of stories and poems celebrating joy, by Black writers, artists, and illustrators from across the world. Curated by Laugh Out Loud Awards winner Dapo Adeola, with a foreword by the acclaimed Patrice Lawrence.

Joyful, Joyful is a book to sing about! This hugely entertaining collection features both exciting new talents and globally renowned creators. Each story and poem individually illustrated by an amazing artist.

With stories featuring a mythical whale, a message from the future, a Halloween dance competition, a talking book, a miraculous discovery in a moment of lost hope, the joy of jollof rice and so much more. The creators hail from around the world, from the UK and Canada, to Uganda, the Netherlands, Nigeria and more.

Colourful and beautifully illustrated, with artwork from an array of talented illustrators including Ken Wilson Max, Dapo Adeola, Dorcas Magbadelo, Odera Igbokwe, and Denzell Dankwah, alongside stories and poems by the likes of Malorie Blackman, Alex Wheatle, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, and Dorothy Koomson.

This collection is perfect for readers age 8 to 12, but can be read by all ages - a great gift for young and old alike! The love, defiance, laughter, and joy in these pages will leave readers feeling empowered, strong, and hopeful about the future.

A collection of stories and poems celebrating joy, by Black writers, artists, and illustrators from across the world. Curated by Laugh Out Loud Awards winner Dapo Adeola, with a foreword by the...

Advance Praise

"Bursting with humour, defiance and the joy of the title... A beautiful book for 8+ to give as a gift, or keep in the school library." —The Guardian

"This is a truly beautiful book. All the illustrations are vibrantly colourful, and the overall feeling is of warmth." —BookTrust

"[An] outstanding book...Although a book for children, it is a must for adults as well!" —Laura Henry-Allain MBE, author of My Skin, Your Skin

"[This] visual feast and a collection of dazzling stories and poems...could make any child fall in love with books forever." —David Walliams

"Bursting with humour, defiance and the joy of the title... A beautiful book for 8+ to give as a gift, or keep in the school library." —The Guardian

"This is a truly beautiful book. All the...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9781529071511
PRICE £12.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

In a Nutshell: An anthology aimed at Black middle-grade readers, telling stories of joy, imagination, and creativity of Black people. Has a mix of stories, poems, nonfiction essays, and recipes. I am obviously outside the target audience, but found some good content herein. Will work even better for the right segment.

Just a few days ago, I had read a short fantasy story about a Black character’s experience under a white colonial regime. In one of the Goodreads reviews for that story, a female Black reviewer bluntly stated that she was tired of reading Black stories with the same old themes of slavery, racism, and injustice, because though one cannot deny the trials and tribulations of Black history, contemporary Black experiences aren't restricted to only the negative episodes. I found that sentiment thought-provoking and honest. Until I read her words, I hadn’t realised just how much of Black writing is focussed on the problematic side of being Black, whether in historical or in contemporary times. Those stories are also important, no doubt. But the other side also cannot be ignored.

When I saw this anthology listed on NetGalley, I felt like it was an answer to the above need. The foreword by Patrice Lawrence and the introduction by Dapo Adeola also highlight the importance of positive stories within the Black diaspora to "tell of our joy, imagination, and creativity." The intent behind this anthology thus fits very well into the lacuna in the Black OwnVoices segment.

This anthology has twenty stories, with each story being illustrated by a Black artist. The look and feel of each contribution is thus distinct. What I especially loved is that the artist’s name is listed right beside the author's name under the title. Great decision to give equal prominence to both!

The tagline makes it clear that these stories celebrate Black Voices, not Black American Voice. The content creators hail from a range of countries and continents – UK, Canada, Uganda, the Netherlands, Nigeria and more. The themes in the stories are also varied, ranging from routine issues to deeper conundrums.

However, “Stories” is actually a slightly misleading label. The “stories” are a mix of fictional stories, nonfiction anecdotes, essays, poems, and even two recipes. While the poems and recipes are obviously easy to figure out, I didn’t notice any indicator of whether a write-up was a fictional or a real-life work. As an adult, I found it easy to figure out which was which. But for children, this part might be muddling, especially as some stories as well as essays use the first-person pronoun.

This collection officially targets readers age 8 to 12, and most of the content will work well for this age group. A couple of stories might go beyond this age limit in terms of suitability or comprehension.

I must admit that I struggled a bit with the lingo. Partly because I couldn’t make sense of some of the Gen Z/Gen Alpha utterances, and partly because some words were culturally a blank to me. This is obviously not a flaw of the book but my lack of familiarity with the speaking style in use.

As always, I rated the entries individually. And as always, I skipped rating the poems, because I simply cannot judge them, having no affinity for verse. Of the sixteen stories/essays, most hit the middle 3-3.5 star range, but there were four stories that reached or crossed the 4-star mark. These were my favourites:
The South Krong Bake-Off: Alex Wheatle – An amazing story about a young baker who wants to do his best in the bake-off. Loved his attitude! - 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Lost and Found - Kelechi Okafor: My absolute favourite “story” of the book. The essay itself was good enough, but I loved the writing device – using the future narrator to write to their ten-year-old self in the past. (I couldn’t figure out that this was an essay until I reached the end, which is a negative, but no points docked for it.) - 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Nigerian Jollof - Dapo Adeola: Yet another essay, where the editor talks of his experience cooking jollof rice with his “adopted Nan”. - 🌟🌟🌟🌟 💫
The Owner of the Story – A motivational essay addressed to the reader. - 🌟🌟🌟🌟💫
(I didn’t realise until now that so many essays had entered my best list!)

All in all, a great collection young Black readers who want to see a more positive representation of their culture. It would also work well in classrooms, for culture-oriented discussions. Because of the colourful illustrations and page art, I’d definitely recommend the physical copy if you are interested in giving this a go.

3.5 stars, based on the average of my rating for each story. Rounding it up as I know my lower rating is partly because of my disconnect with the stories in terms of race and age.

My thanks to Pan Macmillan, Two Hoots, and NetGalley for the DRC of “Joyful, Joyful: Stories Celebrating Black Voices”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.

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