The CCBC recently released the statistics on diversity in children’s books that were published in the US in 2018. Out of all the children’s books published in that year, only 23% were about children of colour. And it turned out that there were actually more books written about animals than about BAME people. 1% of children’s books were about Native American characters, 5% were about Latinx characters, 7% were about Asian characters, 10% were about African/African-American characters. But 27% of children’s books published in the US in 2018 were about animals. 27%. That’s more than all of the books about BAME characters combined.
Summary: After an alchemy experiment gone wrong, a boy and his pet-god end up in twenty-first century Europe. Length: ~2,600 words.
Thump. Morgue leans back in his grandmother’s rocking chair and watches the world spin. It has not stopped since Lugnor hit him with a spade. “A test of mortality,” Lugnor said, “if you can get hurt, perhaps, so can I.”
Thump-thump. Dust motes circle above Morgue’s head like millions of little diamonds which glitter at odd angles then disappear. When he makes a grab for them, his hand comes back with nothing. Thump-thump-thump. The sound of Lugnor stamping up and down the stairs is beginning to grate on Morgue’s nerves. Breathing in deep and closing his eyes, Morgue tries to remember a time when Lugnor did not irk him like this.
At the beginning of the last century, Lugnor’s visits to the mortuary were the highlight of Morgue’s second life. Living as a revenant had taken some getting used to: the voicelessness, the unbeating heart, the whispers in his head that used to keep him up at night, the not-being-alive yet somehow alive enough to disqualify him from claiming afterdeath benefits. Aside from the goodly mortician, who had signed the adoption papers, Lugnor was the only bright thing in Morgue’s deathless life. He can still remember, even though it makes him cringe now, how embarrassingly smitten with Lugnor he was.
Caw hurls the 143rd corpse onto the platform, his face contorting in disgust. His hands are all slippery, reeking of human stench. He cannot, for the love of his future, understand why he’s picked to intern for a lowly Mortician when, taking Caw’s rank into account, he could have chosen any prestigious job. Instead here he is, hauling corpses after corpses onto the Body Dock, before the waves manage to wash them up on Bone Beach and scare the sunlight out of the tourists.
Where do these dead humans come from anyway?
It isn’t until he takes off his hat and calls it a day (night, whatever) that he notices a barrel bobbing in the middle of the black ocean. The Mortician never told him about floating barrels, and for the three months Caw had been labouring his haughty arse, a barrel is the last thing he expects to see.
Liam is well liked everywhere in Neverearth not because of his achievements but in spite of it.
Liam is perfect, it is all he knows how to be, and if there is despair behind it that is his business. Liam notices that his kindness intimidates some of his classmates, so he responds, moulding himself automatically to present the type of perfection they prefer. He modulates his speeches and actions accordingly, and after a while they forget that his eagerness to throw himself in the path of danger used to frighten them, that his curiosity had once been the talk of the school.
He is just like them now, if not always a little above, and he feels himself slipping into the role with despair. It is nothing, really, just as his life is nothing.
He is still as capable as he ever was, spotting the tiniest of inconsistencies and following them, leaping across the landscape of suicidal impulse, but he slows his thoughts, picks his words with meticulous care and is careful in how he presents himself. Hard work, devotion and dedication, not the fact that he simply is willing to die, is the reason he rises above them.
Liam Mirth will go far, they say, and Liam knows it also and does not care. Liam knows that if he just has the right tools he could leave this world, never mind being the greatest wizard, and all his achievements mean nothing with this knowledge.
He knows there has to be a way out, that there must be something else to strive for, but he gave up a long time ago, perhaps even before he fell into Neverearth — what does it matter? He might be broken inside but his veneer is perfect.