This Mom Of Six Wants More Black Hero Characters For Kids

This Mom Of Six Wants

More Black Hero Characters For Kids

Photo Courtesy of MommyWeek

In a world filled with Barbie’s and American Girl Dolls, there is a clear picture that is engrained in every young girl’s mind of what they are ‘supposed’ to aspire to look like. The damage that could come with these impossible societal standards is infinite. Even when diverse dolls and figures come out, they are not often on the forefront of displays at Toys R Us, Target or any other kid stores. The literal white space and lack of inclusion in children’s media is glaringly obvious the moment one walks down a toy aisle or looks at the covers of children’s series’ in bookstores.

Representation is so important in this ever-changing society and gone are the days where one-dimensional are all girls have to look up to. Ylleya Fields knows this well. As a mother of four girls and two boys, Fields sees first hand the lack of representation of black figures in television, books, toys, and media. That is why she set out to make a change and took it into her own hands to give her daughters the role-model they deserve by writing a series of books called “Princess Cupcake Jones”. The protagonist is based on her girls’ so a lot of the traits and scenarios have real-life inspiration. The books all have messages and lessons for young girls, and the illustrations each contain the word ‘love’ hidden inside to show Cupcake Jones fans how loved they are. SWAAY sat down with Fields and got all the details on what’s to come for the future of her books.

Photo Courtesy of Princess Cupcake Jones
1. What was the inspiration for “Princess Cupcake Jones”?

The inspiration for the “Princess Cupcake Jones” series is my daughters. Every story is based on something they’ve done or a feeling they’ve had. Luckily, I have four daughters, so there’s plenty of material to work it.

2. Why is it so important for kids to have characters that represent them?

Representation is important because it helps kids define who they are and even more important who they want to be. When they see strong images of people that they can identify with (through race, gender, etc) they are getting affirmation that they can be and do anything they want.

3. What is the most challenging part of writing children’s stories?

I think the challenge of writing any story is making sure that the plot is engaging to your audience from start to finish. Children stories arent as long as novels so you have to get your storyline across pretty quickly. And of course when you write in rhyme that can be even more tricky.

4. Why is the word ‘love’ hidden in every illustration?

Love is actually my eldest daughters’ middle name. So it was my way of acknowledging her yet again in the series. But I think the word LOVE is so powerful and meaningful to people that by finding it with their children it keeps what is most important at the forefront of our readers’ minds.

Ylleya Fields. Photo Courtesy of Princess Cupcake Jones
5. You’ve won a few awards for Princess Cupcake Jones, including the  2013 Mom’s Choice Award and 2013 Winner of the Family Choice Awards. What does it feel like to be recognized for your work?

It feels amazing! I never set out to win awards but the fact that our series has been recognized as a great body of work is so fulfilling!

6. What do you think kids will learn from reading your books?

That depends on the book! Each book has an underlying message or value that children reading can apply to their everyday lives. In “Princess Cupcake Jones and the Missing Tutu”, children learn that by cleaning up and staying organized, they can find things that are important to them easier. In “Princess Cupcake Jones and the Dance Recital”, children learn that practice makes perfect, and doing your best is all that really matters.

Photo Courtesy of Airplanes and Dragonflies
Photo Courtesy of Home Business Magazine
7. Why do you think the number of African American characters is so limited in children’s books?

I’ve touched on this before but the answer remains the same. It comes down to the fact that there are publishers that don’t believe that books that feature African American characters sell or worse; doubt that there is even a market for them. Clearly, they’re incorrect. The fact that Princess Cupcake Jones is popular and we are even doing this interview counters that notion.

8. What advice do you have for moms who want to help add more representation of black figures?

My advice is to diversify, diversify, diversify. Make sure your children have different kinds of characters in books, music, movies, etc. By diversifying their surroundings, you’re actually helping them with representation by simply doing. It sounds cliche but it’s really as simple as that.

9. What is the most rewarding part of writing books?

The most rewarding part is having other parents and their children tell me how much they love the series. Even going as far as thanking me for writing/creating her. I never thought that this could be as inspirational as it has become. My original mission was just to create something my own daughters’ would be proud of, and in the process, I’ve created a character that empowers all little girls.

10. What do you see for the future of “Princess Cupcake Jones”?

The sky is definitely the limit! We have a new book coming out any day, “Princess Cupcake Jones Saddles Up”, a brand new clothing line, and I just finished writing a new book (as yet untitled).

11. Is there anything you would like to add?

Just a thank you to all of our Cupcakettes for the love and support they’ve given over the years!

Amanda Jaguden

Amanda is a writer living in New York City. She loves reading, coffee, traveling and anything that empowers women.

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