Tamarind Books was founded in 1987 as a small independent publisher specialising in picture books, fiction and non-fiction featuring black and Asian children and children with disabilities, with the mission of redressing the balance of diversity in children’s publishing. It is now an imprint of Random House Children’s Books UK.
Tamarind Books was founded by Verna Wilkins in 1987 after her five-year-old son came home from school with a “This is Me” booklet in which he had coloured himself pink. When she offered him a brown crayon to use instead, he refused, saying that the image he had drawn of himself had to have pink skin because it was for a book. When she researched the matter further, she arrived at the conclusion that her child and other children from the ethnic minorities were so under-represented in children’s books that they were being denied an important stage in their learning, so she decided to start publishing books to meet that need.
For twenty years, Verna Wilkins ran Tamarind Books from her home, writing many of the books herself, working with the support of her family and a small group of friends and freelancers. New books were published only when there was enough money in the company bank account. In the early years, Verna sold the books herself. Later Tamarind books were distributed by commercial distributors.
Two of the best-known titles are The Life of Stephen Lawrence (2001) and Dave and The Tooth Fairy (1993), featuring a black tooth fairy. Tamarind also specialises in biographies of black role models, in the Black Stars series, which includes biographies of Malorie Blackman, Benjamin Zephaniah, Rudolph Walker, Baroness Scotland, Chinwe Chukwuogo-Roy and David Grant.
In 2007, Tamarind Books was acquired by Random House Group Ltd and became an imprint of Random House Children’s Books (UK).
In October 2009, Verna Wilkins retired from publishing and a successor, Patsy Isles, was announced. In January 2011, a new team comprising editors from Random House (Ruth Knowles, Parul Bavishi, Joe Marriott and Sue Buswell) were brought in to run Tamarind, with Verna Wilkins acting as a consultant. Alongside Wilkins, the patrons of Tamarind are Michael Rosen, Benjamin Zephaniah, Jamila Gavin and Meera Syal.
- 2007 Tamarind Books Highly Commended at the Independent Publishers Guild (IPG) Awards in category IPG Diversity Award
- 2008 Tamarind Books wins Cultural Diversity Award at the Nibbies
- "About Us", Tamarind website.
- Kate Agnew, "Imaginary worlds where everyone is the same colour", The Guardian, 7 October 2008.
- Article for BBIA, Publishing News.[dead link]
- Verna Wilkins talks to OHTV's Michelle Brooks, YouTube.
- "Life and death of a south London schoolboy", TES, 11 May 2008.
- Random House acquires Tamarind, The Bookseller, 7 December 2007.
- Philip James, "Foyles and CCV pick up nibbies", The Bookseller, 14 May 2008.
- "Tamarind Publisher Verna Wilkins To Retire At RHCB", Book2book, 30 October 2009.
- "Tamarind Announces New Patrons", 6 December 2011.
- Caroline Horn, "Tamarind: 'more multicultural writing needed'", The Bookseller, 9 January 2012.
- IPG (March 2007). "Independent Publishing Awards: The Pick of Independent Publishing". Independent Publishers Guild. Archived from the original on 13 May 2007. Retrieved 25 September 2013. "IPG Diversity Award [...] Highly commended in this category was Tamarind Books, an independent that has specialised in multicultural children’s books and titles for black children in particular for 20 years."
- Publishing News, 2008.[dead link]