Petronella Breinburg

Today I finished writing a catalogue entry for a file on Petronella Breinburg, who wrote a number of children's books. Her first book, Legends of Suriname, was published by New Beacon in 1971. Subsequently, her series of books about a little boy called Sean, published by Bodley Head, made her more famous. A number of letters in the file refer to the horrendous time she had whilst doing her teaching practice in London schools in the 1970s. Her own experience of racism in schools and her insights into the problems facing black children in the British education system in the 1970s make for interesting reading though the language she uses is often very 'of its time'. I imagine her mostly negative experiences in the school system encouraged her to write children's books which reflected black children's everyday experience in Britain. It's also interesting that she not only wanted to reach a British audience but she was also keen to get her  books published in Surinam, because, she says, the only images of British children that Surinamese children encountered in books were  of upper-middle class white children, drinking tea on the lawn or squabbling with their governesses!

Please note that this material is currently being sorted and catalogued as part of the Dream to Change the World project. As such, it is not yet available to the public.