Meet Nadine Cowan, author of the new Black history series from Big Cat

Meet Nadine Cowan, author of the new Black history series from Big Cat


Nadine Cowan

I’m Nadine Cowan and I write and illustrate picture books. I include Black main protagonists to combat the low figures of Black children in children’s literature from diverse and underrepresented voices/creators.  I’ve loved writing creatively for as long as I can remember. When I was young, I would write stories, songs and poems on my mum’s electric typewriter and be fascinated by the way I could put words on a page.

My earliest memory of writing success was joining my school poetry team at secondary school where we practised the art form of Spoken Word. We went on to win the London Teen Poetry Slam and had the opportunity to tour Chicago in the USA, performing at various schools and performance venues. When I left school, I put the pen down to pursue other passions and dreams.

The writing spark was reignited after the birth of my first child, motivated by the fact that there weren’t many contemporary books available in the UK that featured Black protagonists written by Black authors.

So, when I was approached by Collins Big Cat with the opportunity to write and illustrate a book series focused around Black History, shortly after graduating from the HarperCollins Author Academy, I was thrilled.

A lot of the content around Black History centralises stories of enslavement and trauma so I was adamant that I wanted to amplify positive stories.

Growing up in London as a second-generation Brit whose grandparents came over to England during the Windrush era from Jamaica and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the late fifties, I still had close ties to the Caribbean. I grew up on Caribbean food, music, dance and games. My dad taught us how to play dominoes and Ludi (known as Ludo in the UK), and my aunt had this really huge handmade beautiful wooden Ludi board with hand painted African masks on it from Jamaica that we would play on. I knew many Black British children would share similar experiences, so I really wanted to tell a story that had some of these elements weaved in.

And so, the series was born. A 12-book adventure series about a Black female protagonist Aniyah who travels back in time with her cousin EJ and her best friend Olivia, through a magical Ludi board – not unlike the one I played as a child – where they meet real historical figures and adventure with them.



There were so many amazing stories that I wanted to tell; it was extremely hard to narrow it down to twelve but I settled on some really great stories I think children would love to read, like Yasuke, the first African samurai that we know of in Japan, Miss Lala (Olga Brown), who was an expert aerialist in the 19th and 20th centuries, and Domingo Benkos Biohó, who escaped enslavement in Cartagena and founded San Basilio de Palenque, to name a few.

The first four titles in the series will be available from January 2023, and are available to pre-order here.