Wednesday, 18 August 2021

10 year anniversary copy of 'Artichoke Hearts' - An inheritance of hope on World Humanitarian Day

'Artichoke Hearts' was written in homage to an extraordinary bohemian artist and humanitarian grandmother Rosie Harrison, pictured here exhibiting her art.

 10 year anniversary copy. Published August 19th 2021 on World Humanitarian Day

Thank you to two of my favourite contemporary writers and humanitarians, Onjali Q Rauf and Jasbinder Bilan for their love of 'Artichoke Hearts'.  

"Heart-healing, deeply enriching and utterly chaotic, Mira is a heroine after our own multi-layered hearts: being one perpetually teetering on the cusp of all that life throws at her, as she confronts the whole spectrum of experiences - from deep grief, to the blossoming of a first love to the security of lifetime-old friendships. Who can't help but be mesmerised by the hilarious, dear characters which all work to leave a permanent mark on both Mira and her readers - from the curt Nana Josie to the elusive Jide to the ever-present Millie, and ultimately, not have us fall in love with them too? A deeply unforgettable, gorgeous story.  Be ready to have this one stay with you."

Onjali Q Rauf

‘I first read Sita’s wonderful story when I began studying for an MA in Creative Writing. I was at the start of my own writing journey and it had a deep impact on me as a children’s author. The themes of family loss and coming to terms with change resonated hugely with me on a personal level. It was also an incredible inspiration – it wrote confidently about our diverse landscape and experience and in this sense was breaking new ground with its very believable and admirable characters.

This is heartfelt story-telling at its best – of goodbyes and new beginnings, of fierce family bonds and the wonder of first love. I tucked in close to Mira through all the ups and downs, sharing every emotion as she does. A very special book and so very excited that this celebratory 10 Year Edition will bring Sita’s powerful story to new readers.’

 Jasbinder Bilan

Over the last few days I’ve been looking back and reflecting. Here I am in the cottage in Suffolk counting holey stones and years, where the real Nana  Josie’s inspiration found so much comfort, peace and joy. The walls are no longer painted pink but if twelve year old Mira were in this room today she would be outraged to see the unfolding refugee crisis in Afghanistan just as she was horrified to discover the history of her class mate Jide Jackson, a Rwandan refugee.

 I’m remembering the beautiful launch at The Halesworth Book Shop just days before, to my amazement, ‘Artichoke Hearts’ won the Waterstone’s Children's Book Award ten years ago and I’m wearing the charm that my wonderful husband Leo presented me with on that day.

We all gathered together ten years ago in The Halesworth Bookshop and paid homage to a beautiful grandma who had stood up to the great moments of inhumanity she had lived through and acted for change. She left a legacy in book form in ‘Artichoke Hearts’ to so many more children than my own.  I could not have dreamed when I wrote this gentle diary through the eyes of a twelve year old Mira that it would have reached out to so many hearts.

It is thrilling to think that the editor of this anniversary edition Sim Kaur Sandhu read Artichoke Hearts for the first time as a teenager. I’m so happy to have been given this opportunity to re-visit the novel ten years on and am moved by Sim’s heart-felt response.

 'I was at school when I first read Artichoke Hearts. It was the first time I'd ever read a character I could really identify with as a young brown girl. So much about Mira's honesty and vulnerability especially about the changes her body was going through felt really familiar. Coming back to Mira and her wonderful Nana as an editor was like coming home, and it was wonderful to help bring Artichoke Hearts up-to-date so another generation of readers can learn from Pat Print, fall in love with Jide, and celebrate Nana Josie's incredible life.’ Simran Kaur Sandhu

The charm is passed on through this book and way beyond as the family and the world change... it can be traced forward in time to 'Jasmine Skies' and 'Tender Earth'… charging young readers with its spirit of love of family, friends, community, empathy, justice and courage. I am so happy that it is reaching new generations of readers.

This has been a time of great loss when so many people have not been able to say goodbye to loved ones in the way that they would have wanted. Part of the launch ten years ago was a reading in the Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead where Nana goes to spend her last days. 

 ‘Artichoke Hearts’ sits somewhere between a fairy tale and a family story. In Mira and her fabulous Nana Josie we see a beautiful counterpoint between the two distinct life processes of growing up and saying Goodbye to life. We are shown how in heartbreak and sadness, the strongest colours of communal spirit and family relationships can shine bright. A life- affirming book. 

                                                                                         Sarah Jane Fenton, child psychotherapist. 


Thank you to Belinda Rasmussen and the whole team at Macmillan Children’s Books for producing this beautiful ten year anniversary copy.  A huge thanks to Simran Kaur Sandhu who has edited this updated edition for contemporary readers with such care and love and for remembering how much reading it impacted on her as a young reader. Thanks to  Jo Hardacre and Sabina Marharjan for their work in publicity.  I am in awe of Rachel Vale who has designed three incredibly beautiful copies of the book with illustrations, doodles, talismans and daydreams by illustrator Kate Forrester
Heart-felt thanks to: an editor and friend I have worked with so creatively over the years Samantha Swinnerton who picked up the story as a junior editor and championed it and to Dominic Kingstone, publicist whom I am still hugely privileged to work with and to my agent and friend Sophie Gorell- Barnes from MBA Literary Agents with whom I have published so many books since and to Tanya Rodriquez the amazing actress who is Mira's voice.

Holey stone and charm.... carried still on Walberswich Beach where Pat Print walks too!

I'm incredibly grateful to Waterstone's for recognising this story, launching my writing journey and for Book Trust for always championing my work and making Artichoke Hearts one of their top 100 books over the last century (pinches herself!). Thanks to all the amazing teachers and librarians who have championed the book too. It's incredible that excerpts of it and now part of the Key Stage 2 curriculum. 

This copy feels like it is wrapped with love in the purple blanket that Nana wore on her ‘schlumfy sofa.’ I hope a new generation of  readers find comfort in curling up with it and the strength that Nana passes on to stand up for what they believe to me right..

Here is a beautiful 'hearth' painting from the late Rosie Harrison, my mother in law who was the inspiration for Mira's beloved bohemian artist grandmother in 'Artichoke Hearts.'  It's a source of great joy to our whole family that the essence of her courageous and human rights respecting spirit is still inspiring readers today... and is passed on to  Mira's younger sister Laila the ant-racism protester in 'Tender Earth'. So the inheritance of hope passes on.... and the stories from the hearth keep their charge,  needed in every age.

                                                    Rosie's hearth dolphins that captured my imagination in the story 

Sita X

10 year anniversary copy. Published August 19th 2021 

In Waterstones, Independent Bookshops and Online.

Winner of The Waterstones Book Prize 2011

Named by Book Trust as one of the top 100 books in a hundred years. 

Named by The Guardian as one of the top 50 books championing diversity in the last 50 years.

Currently under commission for theatre. (Bhuchar Boulevard)

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