Tamarind Books

Tamarind Books was a small independent British publisher specialising in picture books, fiction and non-fiction featuring black and Asian children and children with disabilities. It was founded by Verna Wilkins in 1987 with the mission of redressing the balance of diversity in children’s publishing,[1] and in 2007 became an imprint of Random House Children’s Books UK.

Tamarind Books logo


Verna Wilkins

Tamarind Books was founded by Grenada-born[2] Verna Wilkins in 1987 after her five-year-old son came home from school with a "This is Me" booklet in which he had coloured himself pink. When she offered him a brown crayon to use instead, he refused, saying that the image he had drawn of himself had to have pink skin because it was for a book.[3][4] When she researched the matter further, she arrived at the conclusion that her child and other children from the ethnic minorities were so under-represented in children’s books that they were being denied an important stage in their learning, so she decided to start publishing books to meet that need.[5]

For twenty years, Wilkins ran Tamarind Books from her home, writing many of the books herself, working with the support of her family and a small group of friends and freelancers. New books were published only when there was enough money in the company bank account. In the early years, she sold the books herself.[6] Later Tamarind books were distributed by commercial distributors.

Two of the imprint's best-known titles are The Life of Stephen Lawrence (2001)[7] and Dave and The Tooth Fairy (1993), featuring a black tooth fairy. Tamarind also specialises in biographies of black role models, in the Black Stars series, which includes biographies of Malorie Blackman, Benjamin Zephaniah, Rudolph Walker, Baroness Scotland, Chinwe Chukwuogo-Roy, David Grant and Samantha Tross.[8]

In 2007, Tamarind Books was acquired by Random House Group Ltd and became an imprint of Random House Children’s Books (UK).[9]

In 2008, Tamarind Books was awarded the Decibel Cultural Diversity Award in the British Book Awards (Nibbies).[10]

In October 2009, Wilkins retired from publishing[11] and a successor, Patsy Isles, was announced. In January 2011, a new team comprising editors from Random House (Ruth Knowles, Parul Bavishi, Joe Marriott and Sue Buswell) were brought in to run Tamarind, with Verna Wilkins acting as a consultant, with the patrons of Tamarind, alongside Wilkins, being Michael Rosen, Benjamin Zephaniah, Jamila Gavin and Meera Syal.[12][13]

The titles that were historically published under the Tamarind Books imprint are now part of the Puffin and Ladybird lists.[14]



  1. ^ "About Us", Tamarind website.
  2. ^ "Biography - Verna Wilkins", Government of Grenada, 30 September 2011.
  3. ^ Kate Agnew, "Imaginary worlds where everyone is the same colour", The Guardian, 7 October 2008.
  4. ^ Article for BBIA, Publishing News. Archived 17 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Tamarind Books' Verna Wilkins talks to Michelle Brooks about Making her Mark on Children's books", OHTV interview. YouTube, 24 August 2010.
  6. ^ Emma Shercliff, "Books for the Masses? Publishing Genre Fiction in Africa: Africa Writes, 13 July 2014", Africa in Words, 18 August 2014.
  7. ^ McGavin, Harvey (20 April 2001). "Life and death of a south London schoolboy". TES.
  8. ^ Verna Wilkins (15 April 2008). Samantha Tross: Surgeon. Tamarind. ISBN 978-1-870516-48-8.
  9. ^ "Random House acquires Tamarind", The Bookseller, 7 December 2007.
  10. ^ Philip James, "Foyles and CCV pick up nibbies", The Bookseller, 14 May 2008.
  11. ^ "Tamarind Publisher Verna Wilkins To Retire At RHCB", Book2book, 30 October 2009.
  12. ^ "Tamarind Announces New Patrons", 6 December 2011.
  13. ^ Caroline Horn, "Tamarind: 'more multicultural writing needed'", The Bookseller, 9 January 2012.
  14. ^ Tamarind Books at Puffin.
  15. ^ IPG (March 2007). "Independent Publishing Awards: The Pick of Independent Publishing". Independent Publishers Guild. Archived from the original on 13 May 2007. Retrieved 25 September 2013. IPG Diversity Award [...] Highly commended in this category was Tamarind Books, an independent that has specialised in multicultural children’s books and titles for black children in particular for 20 years.
  16. ^ Publishing News, 2008. Archived 13 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Verna Wilkins | The reluctant publisher – 20 years on", The Galley Club, 2008–2009.

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