Review: Later by Curtis Ackie, illustrated by Constanza Goeppinger

Preschoolers, Miko and Yari, are eagerly awaiting their mum's return home but it feels like forever and they desperately want to know when 'later' is. 

While they constantly pester Dad for Mum's ETA, numerous visitors interrupt with a thwack, rap, or knock at the door—how long will the boys have to wait before they can kiss and cuddle their mum again?

Formy Books is a new Black British publisher which, although small, is making ripples in the niche world of Black children's publishing. 

In keeping with the own-voices movement, the family-owned company aims to amplify writers from marginalised groups, with a focus on children's books that feature Black characters.  

Formy's first offering Later, written by owner Curtis Ackie, was successfully crowdfunded by a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year. The self-published picture book, which was inspired by Ackie's children, features an Afro-Caribbean family living in an unidentified leafy suburb. 

It's lovely to read a lighthearted story about a Black family living a life devoid of the drama/trauma often attributed to us. Refreshingly, Akie challenges traditional gender roles by introducing a 21st-century family setup, accompanied by Constanza Goeppinger's quirky illustrations. We see a stay-at-home dad who cooks, cleans and cares for the three children while Mum has her first day back to work.

The use of Jamaican Patois and St Lucian Kwéyòl adds cultural richness and a sense of authenticity, and it would have been lovely to see even more Creole used throughout. The repetitive structure is helpful for early readers in EYFS, and the text could work well read aloud by parents/carers so children can enjoy listening to the rhythmic speech patterns and predicting the next visitor to come to the house. The story may benefit young children who are preparing for a significant change at home, specifically a parent/carer going back to work. It could also encourage them to think about how to be patient or deal with boredom. Finally, through discussion with parents/carers, children may learn that families can look and operate differently to their own.
As a first stab, this cheerful picture book is a promising indication of exciting things to come from Formy. I'm keen to see what's next! Head over to Formy Books to learn more.

All the Black children's books that I review are checked against my Jericho Benchmark.