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What Happened to the Black Kids?

There are almost no children's and young adult fantasy adventure books with Black characters in them and we need more.

Ukiah, CA, April 06, 2007 --( Have you ever noticed that there are almost no fantasy adventure books for children and young adults with Black characters in them? So what happened to all the Black kids? There are many excellent novels for young people with Black kids as lead characters; however, these books are almost entirely realistic stories that take place at the time the book was written or during an historic time period. Scarred by centuries of invisibility in nonfiction and negative portrayals in fiction, it is no wonder that writers from the Black community utilize the novel to teach the truth about the cultural context, experiences, and contributions of Black Americans. That’s all good, but we are living in the Harry Potter Era.

Youth in the Harry Potter Era have a serious “Jones” for fantasy adventure. Like many of the better complex fantasy realms that sweep youngsters into gaming and computer-generated worlds, a good fantasy adventure book challenges the mind, stimulates the imagination, and sets the endorphins dancing with the adrenalin rush of navigating an uncharted land filled with action-packed experience. And Black youngsters understandably want to see themselves portrayed in these uncharted lands too.

This was a recent topic of discussion on Bev Smith’s nationally syndicated radio show when she interviewed Amy Wachspress about The Call to Shakabaz, which features all Black characters (and demonstrates the fundamental principles of nonviolence as practiced by Dr. King). Wachspress, who has been reading fantasy adventures aloud to her own Black children and stepchildren for nearly 30 years, states that “It is imperative that Black youngsters see Black culture and Black values advanced in the culture-at-large in a positive light. Black children must observe other children (from other cultural backgrounds) reading and appreciating books with Black characters that take place within Black culture. It is a matter of health. It is a matter of education. It is a matter of pride and self-esteem. It is a matter of motivating youngsters to read. It is a matter of positive social change and justice.” Let’s hope that as the golden age of fantasy adventure continues to unfurl, we will have the opportunity to journey in other realms with more and more Black folks leading the way.

Amy Wachspress's children's fantasy adventure The Call to Shakabaz was recently published by Woza Books and was launched to a standing-room-only crowd on King Day 2007. To find out more go to

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Woza Books
Amy Wachspress

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