News | November 24, 2023

Malorie Blackman: The Power of Stories Opens at the British Library

British Library

Malorie Blackman's binder of rejection slips

Featuring comics, manuscripts and books from the national collection alongside original typescripts, editors’ notes and artworks, Malorie Blackman: The Power of Stories (runnng through February 25, 2024)  is a free British Library exhibition celebrating one of the UK’s most popular writers for children and  young people. 

The exhibition uncovers Malorie Blackman’s inspirations and the impact she has had on her readers, and on inclusivity and representation in publishing. 

"Libraries are the great equaliser and, without them, literacy would become  the province of the lucky few, rather than the birthright of everyone," said Malorie Blackman. "I wouldn’t be a writer if it wasn’t  for my local library, and I hope this exhibition in the national library of the UK shows that every child  has the right to be seen and need to be heard in literature."

Divided into sections focusing on Representation, Claiming a Voice, Noughts & Crosses and Legacies, each part of the exhibition includes an introductory film narrated by Blackman, as well as material from her own archive, including:

  • a ring binder of over 80 rejection letters Blackman received from publishers, on public display for the first time
  • a copy of the typescript letter and Noughts & Crosses first draft Blackman sent to Penguin Random House UK in 1999
  • Blackman's copy of The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker, signed by Walker "Don't give up!" when Blackman attended a signing when she was trying to get published
  • Blackman’s Children’s Laureate medallion

The Library, which is still suffering from the effects of a cyber attack, collaborated with a group of students from Regent High School in Camden to create new  works inspired by Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses series, and to help to shape how the exhibition was  presented.

Placing Blackman’s works and experiences centre stage to explore Black British writing more broadly, the exhibition also showcases A Thief in the Village by James Berry (1989), the first Black-centred children’s book Blackman discovered, Norman Smith’s Bad Friday (1982), the first published novel by a  British-born Black author, and Margaret Busby, who was the first Black female publisher in Britain when she co-founded Allison and Busby in 1967. 

The exhibition is accompanied by in-person and online events, including Blackman in conversation with author Bernardine Evaristo in association with the Royal Society of Literature (February 23, 2024), writers Jade LB, Jyoti Patel and Taylor-Dior Rumble from #Merky Books discussing Blackman’s influence (January 26, 2024), and an evening with notable super fans of the Noughts and Crosses series (February 12,  2024).