Puffin has acquired the first children’s non-fiction title from writer, broadcaster, documentary maker and activist and Afua Hirsch. The "curriculum-busting" book, Hidden Histories, will cover omissions in the British history that is taught to UK schoolchildren, including Britain's colonial expansion, in a fully-illustrated read for eight to 13-year-olds.
World rights were acquired by Anna Barnes Robinson, editorial director, and Rachel Hard, assistant editor, at Penguin Random House from Bill Hamilton at A M Heath.
According to Puffin, the book aims to address omissions in the curriculum for UK children—who study topics such as the Tudors and the Second World War, but do not study the history of Britain's colonial expansion, the enslavement of Africans and the globalising influence of imperial and transatlantic trade that has shaped the modern political economy.
In Hidden Histories, Afua Hirsch corrects that omission, reads the book's synopsis, "by telling the incredible, surprising, amusing and poignant stories of black figures from British history – stories that British children have never heard before. The stories she tells are about black people, but this is not black history. It’s the history of Britain, told through the lens of these hidden histories."
Hirsch said: "So much of my work is driven by the hope that I can help others access the kind of knowledge I needed when I was growing up, navigating what it means to be British, and why black people have for so long been portrayed as an alien, contextless presence in this country. I’m thrilled to be working on a book which counters that with the facts, but also crucially with the intrigue and joy which — I know from my own daughter — is what compels children to read."
Rachel Hard, assistant editor at Penguin Random House Children’s, said: "All of us at Puffin feel very lucky to be publishing such an extraordinary introduction to Britain’s untold past. We were blown away by the clarity and power of Afua’s proposal — this is an essential read for all ages that couldn’t be more necessary. As black British history continues to be so underrepresented on the UK curriculum, this book will spark vital conversations and deserves to find a place in every classroom and nobody is better placed to write it than Afua."
Hirsch's books include Brit(ish) (Vintage), which sold just under 36,000 copies through Nielsen BookScan's Total Consumer Market since it was first published in 2018, and Equal to Everything, a picture book about Lady Hale and the UK Supreme Court.
Her current projects include "Enslaved", a four-part documentary series with Samuel L Jackson; "African Renaissance", a BBC documentary series about African art; and an Audible original series "We Need to Talk About the British Empire". She was also a judge on last year’s Booker Prize, and is currently the Wallis Annenberg Chair of Journalism at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.