Cultural Diversity in Children’s Books with Fiona Ingram, Author of The Search for the Stone of Excalibur

excalibur front cover final2-2Author Fiona Ingram is visiting the blog today, on a WOW! tour for The Search for the Stone of Excalibur

This middle grade adventure picks up the story following the first mystery she penned, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab. Cousins Justin and Adam face modern as well as ancient dangers in their search to find Excalibur. And what’s up with Kim, the girl their aunt has sent along to help them?

Fortunately for us, we have Fiona to explain a little something something about Kim–and Cultural Diversity in Children’s Books:

In the early 1960s, Canadian philosopher and writer Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase ‘global village,’ in effect predicting that in time electronic media would draw the world’s populations closer. Now in 2015, over fifty years later, we need more than ever to acknowledge, accept and celebrate that there are people with different languages, cultures and religious beliefs. We should know more about the other people on our planet, but do we in essence teach our children that everyone has the same rights and deserves acceptance? I was brought up in apartheid South Africa by open-minded parents who valued people and taught us acceptance of everyone, regardless of color. Post-apartheid South Africa has a wide range of people from different race groups, languages, and cultural beliefs; and indeed there are still haves and have-nots. In my second book, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, the two young heroes—Justin and Adam—meet someone who is just like them, yet comes from a completely different background. They have well-off parents, while disadvantaged Kim is living with their Aunt Isabel so as to get a better education.

Readers might be interested to know that the character of Kim in Book 2 is based on a real child, an African child I fostered and later adopted. My young nephews (who inspired the book series) did have a bit of a cultural shock meeting someone who did not come from a well off background, and who needed another person’s help to perform better at school. In subsequent books, the heroic trio encounter different scenarios in different countries, and truly experience multiculturalism. Young readers who follow their adventures are steeped in various histories and cultures covering thousands of years in diverse locales. Book 3 (The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper) takes the trio to Central America, where they meet an uncontacted tribe and learn about people who wish to preserve their own unique way of life in the jungle. They also learn about the dangers facing the rain forests, wildlife and indigenous people from industry and mining.

A reviewer commented on my books, saying: “Contrary to today’s apparent trend of watering down our differences, your stories celebrate those differences, which I believe will better serve your young readers as they become the next wave of world leaders.” I was moved by this comment because the places I have chosen as locales for the future adventures are rich in ancient history and stories and legends that anyone would be proud to call their heritage. These elements should be preserved as cultural wealth; special and unique moments in a people’s history that have meaning for them. By including diversity in children’s literature, an author is able to help broaden cultural understanding and acceptance between young readers and reduce conflicts. It’s a great way to teach kids that there are others who might not have all the advantages they enjoy, and that caring and sharing, and respecting others is part of the process of being a compassionate human being. As an end note, Book 1: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab is now available in Japan and I hope young Japanese readers will just love reading about an amazing Egyptian adventure in their own language.

The internet has made the world a smaller place than when I was a kid, sharing information about people from all over the four corners of the earth. And yet we still struggle with the big issues: accepting others, treating those who are different from us with respect, and celebrating those differences. I love to see books like The Search for the Stone of Excalibur that embrace and celebrate different cultures–and tell a rollicking good story to boot!

FionaIngram-794310And now here’s a little more about Fiona Ingram:

Fiona Ingram was born and educated in South Africa, and has worked as a full-time journalist and editor. Her interest in ancient history, mystery, and legends, and her enjoyment of travel resulted in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, the first in her exciting children’s adventure series—The Chronicles of the Stone. This was inspired by a family trip the author took with her mom and two young nephews aged ten and twelve at the time. The book began as a short story for her nephews and grew from there. The Search for the Stone of Excalibur is a treat for young King Arthur fans. Fiona is busy with Book 3 entitled The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper, set in Mexico.

While writing The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, Fiona fostered (and later adopted) a young African child from a disadvantaged background. Her daughter became the inspiration for the little heroine, Kim, in The Search for the Stone of Excalibur. Interestingly, the fictional character’s background and social problems are reflected in the book as Kim learns to deal with life. Fiona’s experiences in teaching her daughter to read and to enjoy books also inspired many of her articles on child literacy and getting kids to love reading.

You can follow Fiona on Facebook or Twitter, and check out her blog, too. (She always shares the most interesting animal stories!) And of course, look for her fun and fascinating mystery, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur. You’ll learn something new on every page!

6 thoughts on “Cultural Diversity in Children’s Books with Fiona Ingram, Author of The Search for the Stone of Excalibur

  1. I remember reading ‘The Secret of the Sacred Scarab’ (recommended by Cathy!) and really enjoying it. I’m looking forward to this one, too! I agree that it’s important for our children to learn about other places, peoples, and cultures. And to realize that there are differences, but also lots of similarities as well. Thanks for an interesting post, Fiona and Cathy.

  2. I would describe Fiona’s books as very “Indiana Jones” with children as the quest seekers. Both parents and kids will enjoy reading them together. They are very educational, fun, and keep you turning the pages.

    Thank you again for hosting Fiona today, Cathy!

  3. They DO look like good books, and diversity… well, it’s such a crucial thing to have. Kids have to have books available that include characters who look like them. Or, they need to have books available which allow them to expand their horizons as they encounter–as they read–characters who are very different from them.

    Thank goodness Dick and Jane and Puff are long gone…

  4. Thanks for the lovely comments, folks. I think when kids learn while having fun, both educational and life lessons, it sinks in deeper, and stay forever. The experience of taking my nephews to Egypt, and then fostering Mabel (my daughter) also had such an impact on me the writer, and hopefully I’ll be able to impart more to young readers and explorers in subsequent books. Yes, my books are very like ‘young Indiana Jones’ in outlook and I hope readers will experience a sense of adventure while reading.

  5. This sounds terrific. I’m all for any book that helps open the world up. We become so focused on only what we can see that it is easy to forget—especially for children, I think—that there are millions of other lives being lived in hugely different circumstances than our own.

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