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Our review team

Meet our experienced team of freelance book reviewers! All our reviewers are experts in children’s literature, with backgrounds across education, library services, children’s publishing and academia. Each is also a passionate advocate for diversity in children’s stories, and brings a unique perspective to a very diverse team.  

Amy Byrne

Amy is currently studying towards her PhD in English Literature where she explores the representation of race in children’s picturebooks. She is interested in how inclusion and representation can be improved in the children’s publishing sector and through mediators such as libraries, bookstores and schools. Having previously analysed gender stereotypes as part of her master’s studies, she aspires for the resources used in schools to feature high-quality representations of children and their communities. Previously a teacher in the UK and abroad, Amy has seen the impact that inclusive texts can have on children when they reflect children’s and society’s diversity.

Amy, a thirtysomething White woman standing in  front of a white wall. She has long blonde hair and is wearing a black dress with white spots.

Amy McKay

Amy is a knowledgeable, innovative, and enthusiastic school librarian, living and working in Cumbria. Amy is a past UK School Librarian of the Year. With over 17 years’ experience in school libraries and over a decade as the Yoto Carnegies National Coordinator she has a vast knowledge of children’s literature. She is a familiar face at festivals and has judged numerous book awards, including the Blue Peter Book Awards and the Nibbies. Amy loves nothing more than sharing her love of books and reading, connecting young people with the authors and books that will enrich their lives for years to come.

Amy, a forty-something,light-skinned mixed-raced woman, is standing in front of a lake and mountains. She has brown, wavy hair. She is wearing black glasses, a green coat, and an orange and cream scarf.

Beth Noble

Beth Noble left the University of Leeds with a first-class honours in Sociology, where she chose the route of racial representation in the media and its wider impacts. Her following years working in nurseries and schools around London instilled in her a deep love for storytelling, and she witnessed the positive effects that diverse and inclusive stories can have on developing minds. Since then she has worked across documentary TV, acting and copywriting, always with the belief that diversity and authenticity in narratives can be the catalyst for social change.

Beth, a twenty-something year-old Mixed-Race woman, is standing in front of a white wall. She is wearing a white vest top, nose ring and hair in a bun with a fringe.

James and Lucy Catchpole

James and Lucy Catchpole run The Catchpole Agency, which represents children's authors and illustrators. They live in Oxford with their two daughters, who outnumber them in terms of functional legs by a ratio of 4:1. They have a particular interest in children’s publishing around disability and are the authors of the picture books What Happened to You? and You’re So Amazing! They write about books, disability and family life on Instagram @thecatchpoles.

James and Lucy Catchpole are a white couple in their forties, pictured here on some wooden decking with trees behind. She’s a wheelchair-user and he’s an amputee, standing with crutches.

Janet Noble

Janet Noble has spent 28 years promoting a love of books and reading to all children and families as a children’s librarian in London. During the span of her career she has worked with diverse communities from Brixton to Battersea to Bethnal Green — in public libraries, for the Sure Start Bookstart Plus scheme, in school libraries and in a workplace specialist library for looked-after children. She has been a judge for the CILIP Yoto Carnegie Awards, the oldest and most prestigious children’s literature prize in the UK, in 2019 and 2020; and chaired their panel of judges in 2023.

Janet, a middle aged Black woman, is standing in front of a wall in a Black and White, head and shoulders shot. She is smiling and wearing a bead necklace.

Jen Campbell

Jen Campbell is an award-winning poet and the bestselling author of 12 books for adults and children, spanning fiction, non-fiction, poetry and picture books. She has worked in the publishing industry for over 15 years, first as a bookseller and now as a freelance editor, reviewer and content creator. She reviews books online, in print and on the radio. As a queer disabled woman, she is very passionate about representation in literature. Find out more at: www.jen-campbell.co.uk.

Jen, a thirty something white woman, is standing in front of a white brick wall. She is wearing green dungarees, a grey top, a peach wig and glasses.

Maame Blue

Maame Blue is a Ghanaian-Londoner, creative writing tutor and author of the novel Bad Love, which won the 2021 Betty Trask award. Her short stories have been published in three anthologies, and her second novel The Rest Of You will be published in Autumn 2024. Maame has over a decade of experience working for community and arts organisations; in 2019 she launched the Booktrust Represents programme, and in 2021 she ran the Poetry in the Primary Classroom programme for the Royal African Society. She also co-hosted the Storymix Podcast Craft and Conversation in 2023 and she regularly teaches creative writing for City Lit, Arvon and Spread the Word.

Maame, a thirty-something black woman is pictured in front of a green wall. She is wearing a pink, green and blue shirt patterned with a repeated lip print, over a white vest. She has honey-coloured braids and a wide smile.\n

Phoebe Demeger

Phoebe is the Librarian at CLPE (the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education). A key part of her role is managing the charity’s vast collection of children’s books and ensuring that the very best titles find their way into the hands of teachers and families, always with an eye on high-quality and inclusive texts. She has also worked as a Bookseller for over five years in both commercial and independent bookshops, strengthening her knowledge of the children’s book market and fine-tuning her aptitude for offering the perfect book recommendation.

Phoebe, a thirty-something white woman, stands smiling in front of a white wall. She is wearing a pink button-up shirt, and has medium-length brown hair with an undercut.

Rumena Aktar

Rumena is an experienced primary school librarian who won the inaugural Primary School Librarian of the Year Award with UKSLA in 2022. She is passionate about equality, diversity and inclusion and actively supports local schools in improving the diversity of their book collections. She has worked with many organisations, including Imagine Centre, Tapestry, Open University (Reading for Pleasure initiative) and Lit in Colour, producing booklists, reviews and recommendations for school staff and pupils. She is a judge for the Yoto Carnegie Medals 2024. 

A black and white picture of Rumena Aktar wearing a hijab and smiling.

Sarah Smith

Sarah is the Libraries Development Manager for Brent Libraries and Chair of the London branch of the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians. Her work championing diversity in children’s literature was recognised in the panel production of Diverse Voices in 2014. She is a judge for Empathy Lab’s Read for Empathy Guides for schools. Sarah is responsible for successful, funded-partnership cultural programming including the annual Spine Festival and drama productions with Open Book Theatre. She is a passionate advocate for the role of libraries in developing STEM.

In 2020, Sarah was awarded an OBE for services to public libraries. In 2023, she was named as one of the next generation of professionals who will help lead the Library and Information Association sector into a new age of information under the banner CILIP 125.

Sarah Smith, a Black woman, stands, smiling, in front of a river in Porto, Portugal on a sunny day, wearing a yellow sleeveless blouse and a red colourful bandana covering some of her hair.

Tanja Jennings

Tanja is a school librarian who has represented Northern Ireland on four judging panels for the Carnegie Book Awards for Writing and Illustration. Her roles as a children’s book reviewer, creative book blogger and Kids’ Lit Quiz coach have informed her belief that books make the world a better place because they promote understanding, inclusivity and kindness. She includes Sugar Pink Rose which explores independence and identity, There Is a Tribe of Kids, which is about belonging and Visible Sounds, a nuanced and inclusive exploration of a deaf child’s discovery of vibration and dance, among her favourite picture books.

Tanja, a 40 something white woman, is pictured in the courtyard of the British Library at the Yoto Carnegie Medals ceremony in June 2022 where she represented Northern Ireland on the judging panel.

Wendy Shakespeare

Wendy Shakespeare is an accomplished editor with over twenty years’ experience in the publishing industry. She worked at Puffin Books for sixteen years, where she managed the editorial process for children’s fiction and non-fiction titles, and worked with many authors (including Malorie Blackman, Tom Fletcher, Adam Kay, Jill Murphy, and Katie Kirby AKA Hurrah for Gin). More recently, she left her role as Senior Editorial Manager at the end of 2022 to pursue a freelance editorial career. Wendy is passionate about the need for diverse books for all children. Everyone deserves to see themselves represented.

A head-and-shoulders photograph of Wendy, a forty-five-year-old British Chinese woman, is standing in front of a bookshelf. She is smiling and wearing a white top and glasses.