Author reimagines Bible stories with mixed-race characters and 'diverse' Jesus

CBeebies star Gemma Hunt is publishing her first children’s book – a mixed-race retelling of the stories of Jesus, which aims to teach children about friendship.

The presenter decided to write the new stories after being unable to find any children’s books which featured a mixed-heritage family like her own. 

Gemma’s book – A Good Friend – is a modern and diverse reimagining of the stories of Jesus. She has also revealed that she feels ‘immense responsibility’ as a children’s TV presenter to be a good role model to the children who watch her.

A Good Friend features a mixed-race family as the main characters and aims to give Jesus a face which isn’t the ‘stereotypical, blonde-haired and blue-eyed Jesus so many of us grew up with.’  

‘There’s a stigma around learning that it’s just about textbooks and silent reading, but I passionately believe that children and adults learn best when they don’t even realise they’re learning, and they’re just having a great time,’ says Gemma.  

Gemma, who rose to fame on CBBC in 2002 and starred in the hit series Swashbuckle, wrote the book for her own daughter – who has a white father, a Black grandmother and a white grandfather – so that she could see a family like her own reflected in the books she read.  

‘We couldn’t find any children’s books which represented a family like ours,’ says Gemma, who is currently a presenter on Channel 5.  

‘While there is more diversity in kids stories these days, there was nothing which truly reflected my own child’s experience of home life. I wrote these stories because it is so important for children to see themselves represented in the literature and media they consume – I want my daughter to look at this book and feel like she’s looking in a mirror.’

As a Christian, Gemma says she wants her book to promote a ‘diverse image of Jesus’ – one that makes mixed-race children and children of colour feel part of the conversation on religion.

In A Good Friend, the mixed-race family at the heart of the story carry out the parables and teachings of Jesus in a modern context. Gemma wanted to make sure these diverse characters were at the centre of every story, rather than confined to the sidelines. 

Gemma adds: ‘As a child, your own experience of life is all you know. So, if you’re not seeing your life reflected in what you’re reading and watching on TV, it might lead you to question the life that you have and feel like your experience is not normal compared to the rest of the world.

‘It’s so important for children to feel part of things – we all just want to feel like we belong.’

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