Pop Up: 10 Stories to Make a Difference

10 Stories to Make a Difference is a collection of original illustrated stories published by children’s literature non-profit development agency Pop Up, which has been bringing books, schools and communities together for 10 years. Pop Up has collaborated with 20 writers and illustrators and a host of editing and design professionals from 12 publishers, and crowdsourced funding to ensure top quality editions. Design agency Baxter & Bailey has donated the 10 Stories to Make a Difference book design and branding. 

Pop Up’s website for schools www.pop-up-hub.com will feature teaching resources on the books. 

Pop Up Projects CIC is a non-profit national children’s literature development agency with a mission to transform lives through literature. For ten years Pop Up has been bringing literature to life for over 120,000 children, young people and families in schools and universities, communities and public spaces. They’ve provided 7,000 hours of author workshops and 58,000 books to schools, helped 180 young writers and illustrators from under-represented backgrounds into print, and through Pathways Into Children’s Publishing are training a more diverse next generation of illustrators for careers in children’s publishing.

Philip Ardagh

“I was delighted to be one of the established authors invited to take part in Pop Up’s 10 Stories To Make A Difference project, paired with illustrator Jamie Beard, who, despite his reputation and body of work rooted in issues of social justice in Belfast, had yet to dip his toe in the world of children’s books. The theme of all ten books is ‘difference’ and I chose to build my story around a true event which occurred 1839, when an escaped tiger prowled the streets of London; a dangerous splash of colour in a world of soot and grime, loose in a melting pot of cultures from across the globe. A contemporary report states that, at first, the animal was mistaken for a bear, which gave me my title. Through this outsider, I wanted to explore the different types of people who made London their home. Jamie’s atmospheric illustrations helped bring it all to life.”

Mistaken for a Bear

In the melting pot of London in 1839, two young dock workers chase a tiger on the loose — a dangerous splash of colour in a world of soot and grime! Written by Philip Ardagh, Mistaken for a Bear is a true story about mistaken identities, brought vividly to life by debut illustrator Jamie Beard’s richly atmospheric depictions of a grimy Victorian London. Mistaken for a Bear was edited by Daisy Jellicoe and art directed by Chloé Tartinvilleat Walker Books.

Age 9 up

Krista M. Lambert

I grew up in an area of Texas where being different is not exactly celebrated. I was neurodivergent, and although I did not yet consciously realize it at the time, subconsciously I think I knew I was also queer. I felt like a monster—or like I was hiding a monster from the world, carrying it around with me wherever I went, impossible to escape. This sounds rough, but I was lucky: eventually, I realized that by embracing and loving every part of my identity, all those parts of myself that I had once seen as wrong could become magical. I guess I wish that someone had helped me come to that conclusion earlier, so I wanted to pass the message of unconditional self-acceptance to children who otherwise might not hear it. Pop Up Projects gave me a way of doing that, and with the help of Chris Riddell’s absolutely gorgeous illustrations, the end result is something beyond my wildest dreams

Indigo Takes Flight

Indigo has a secret – and it’s growing too big to hide! An enchantingly illustrated tale about coming to terms with who you are, and finding acceptance from those you love. Written by debut writer Krista M. Lambert and magnificently illustrated by former Waterstones Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell. Indigo Takes Flight was edited and art directed by Holly Tonks at Lantana. Indigo Takes Flight is a deeply moving parable about the inner conflict involved in coming out as LGBTQ+ to family and friends. Krista M. Lambert was one of four winners of Pop Up’s 10th Birthday Writing Competition.

Ages 7 and up

Anjali Tiwari

“Hi! I am Anjali, the youngest author associated with the Ten Stories to Make a Difference project. My book, Forbidden, is about two girls with very different lives, who are drawn into a passionate friendship – and bound by a desire to break the taboos that divide them.

I was inspired to write such a story after reading Munshi Premchand’s works in my childhood. Set in pre-Independence India, they often deal with issues like caste divisions, patriarchy, and poverty. While formulating the plot, I realized that many of the social problems prevalent in 1930s India still exist today, albeit in a less-visible form. My objective was to showcase how friendship can bridge even the most colossal of voids.

Being a visual writer, I very often use vivid imagery in my writing. I knew that Forbidden would be much more striking if there were accompanying illustrations, and that was what drew me to participate in this project. Danica da Silva Pereira, the illustrator, provided wonderful drawings that really brought my story to life.”


Two girls with very different lives are drawn into a passionate friendship — and bound by a desire to break the taboos that divide them. Forbidden is a heartbreaking short story set in India. Written by Anjali Tiwari, who was aged 16 at the time of publishing, Forbidden was one of four winners of Pop Up’s 10th Birthday Writing Competition. This beautiful book features eleven pages of original artwork by illustrator Danica Da Silva Pereira. Forbidden was edited by Clare Whitston and art directed by Holly Fulbrook at Oxford University Press.

Age 11 plus

Marcus Sedgwick

There are people who want us to believe in the idea of the individual over the idea of community. They’ve been working hard for half a century to promote this idea under the guise of economic advancement, but that is a smokescreen hiding a deeper purpose; to make us feel powerless, separating us from the corridors of power, rendering us compliant. The effectiveness of this can be seen in the sense of confusion and helplessness evident in all sorts of people. There is tension, discord; disunity everywhere, and this is the result of being told that we do not exist as part of a tribe but as competitive individuals; powerless and alone. It doesn’t have to bethis way; we can restore the post-war idea of communal action. In this post-revolutionary world, we can learn to make revolutions again. The best way to do this is with new narratives; and this is the place from where my story comes.

Together We Win

A mysterious narrator witnesses three change-making moments of rebellion and revolution – and one of them is now. Writer Marcus Sedgwick’s short story uses the past to illustrate how humanity is once again at a pivotal moment in time. Is now the time for a revolution? And what part will you play in making change? Features artwork by debut illustrator Daniel Ido. Together We Win is edited by Ruth Knowles and art directed by Sean Williams at Penguin Random House.

Age 11 up

Jamila Gavin

I knew a boy who was born a non-verbal quadriplegic. It became apparent as he got older, that he was a very intelligent, funny, loving boy. He went to school, and was able to use the latest technology to communicate, learn, make friends, and go to university. Ian had an inner world with imaginary friends, which no one else knew about. I wondered where he went and what he did in this fantasy world. He loved sport. Maybe he was a world- famous footballer. If it had been me, my fantasy world would have been in the sea. I found myself creating Sophie. Sophie lived in the real world where she went school, and longed to make friends, and her inner world where she swam with the whales. Water was her element. She met Amber who had been paralysed in a diving accident and was fiercely bitter and unfriendly. But then Sophie realised Amber’s element too, was water.

In Her Element

Faced with a whole new life far away from home, Sophie finds it hard to make friends — until a shared passion for water helps someone else come to terms with their disability. In Her Element’s deep-dive into Sophie’s world offers a rare opportunity for young readers to see through the eyes of a main character with cerebral palsy. Written by Jamila Gavin, this ground-breaking story awash with magic realism, beautifully rendered in watercolours by emerging illustrator Jacinta Read. In Her Element was edited by Liz Bankes and art directed by Tiffany Leeson at Farshore.

Age 10 and up

Sita Brahmachari

After ten years of doing wonderful work reaching out to young readers and educators, Pop Up have launched their first publishing project featuring ten brand new illustrated children’s stories, all inspired by the theme of ‘difference’. The stories are exciting new collaborations between established and emerging writers and illustrators, giving platforms to diverse bold new voices. This is a truly community spirited venture. Swallow’s Kiss is a story about the power of community, friendship and the curiosity of children to learn and inspire each other. There are a lot of beautiful birds in the story carrying on their wings messages of hope from and for refugee children and families and dreams for the future. Like seven year old Blessing and her new friend Hani, readers are invited to make their own wishing birds. This story is dedicated to the refugee community that Jane Ray and I work with. We hope it will inspire caring community connections, a joy in art and making new friendships across languages and cultures.

Swallow’s Kiss

When Blessing finds a lost bag of paper birds she follows a trail of hopes and wishes to the community who made them, in this lyrical, free-verse tale about kindness and friendship. Filled with light, love and birdsong, Swallow’s Kiss is a wonderfully uplifting story that explores the common threads that connect our communities, inspired by writer Sita Brahmachari and illustrator Jane Ray’s experiences as artists-in-residence at the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants. Swallow’s Kiss was edited by Dylan Calder at Pop Up and art directed by Elorine Grant at Harper Collins.

For age 9 and up

Avital Balwit

I was inspired to write about octopuses for Pop Up’s publication call because they are such fascinating creatures whose intelligence reveals a commonality between humans and our distant evolutionary relatives. I also wanted to portray a character like Jayla, who is initially excluded from the world of research, to show that anyone who wants to should be able to become a scientist — we will need a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives to be able to more fully understand and appreciate our world and the creatures we share it with. I loved Pop Up’s prompt for the contest, andlook forward to reading the other stories: embracing difference can allow us to learn about the world, gain new perspectives, and teach tolerance, compassion, and curiosity. Another wonderful element about the collection are the fantastic illustrations. My illustrator, Alexis Deacon, has done a stunning job of showing the octopus Frazier’s vibrancy, and bringing Jayla’s world to life. I grew up reading books illustrated by Alexis, so it was incredibly exciting to hear he would be illustrating the story.

That Thing

A close encounter with an intelligent octopus provides a lesson in the value of curiosity and kindness to animals. Debut writer Avital Balwit’s That Thing suggests that our indifference to other animals also reflects how we sometimes treat each other. Illustrator Alexis Deacon’s watercolour washes and exquisite octopi animate this brilliant short story. That Thing was one of four winners of Pop Up’s 10th Birthday Writing Competition. That Thing was edited by Caroline Royds and art directed by Jacqui McDonough at Penguin Random House.

Age 10 plus

Eleanor Cullen

My inspiration for A Match for a Mermaid was a desire to validate my own sexuality to myself. Like Malu, I wanted to date a male but found faults in all the ones I met. Having her marry a mermaid rather than a merman was my way of telling myself it would be okay for me to choose to date a girl instead.

Hopefully, children can read my book and infer that same message from it, as well as enjoy the inclusiveness of David Roberts’ illustrations. Through the different mermen, Davidshowcases all different types of gender identities and relationships, making my story into one that represents even more people than I could have possibly imagined.

I got involved in 10 Stories to Make a Difference because even from its title I knew it was a special project. Pop-Up know that stories have the power to shape lives, and with these books, they’re using literature to change the world. I’m overjoyed whenever I think about all the children who’ll read one – or all! – of these stories and feel less alone, or become more accepting of anyone who’s different, whether that’s themselves or other people.

A Match for a Mermaid

A picky princess rejects a string of eligible suitors in this hilariously illustrated underwater tale about choosing to love who you want. Written by debut writer Eleanor Cullen and brilliantly illustrated by David Roberts. Edited by Libby Hamilton at Andersen Press and art directed by Jane Buckley at Simon & Schuster. A Match for a Mermaid is a genre-busting fable about same-sex union and defying convention.

For ages 5 and up

What a truly astounding collection of stories celebrating diversity and inclusivity in its many forms. I’d like to thanks all the authors who took time to contribute to this post, often sharing their very personal motivations for wanting to get involved with this fantastic project.

I would urge you all to head over the the Pop Up shop and purchase yourself one of these beautifully bound titles and help transform young people’s lives through literature.

The collection will be launched at the British Library on 24th June. The on-line event is free but booking is essential: https://www.bl.uk/events/10-stories-to-make-a-difference

Library Girl.


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