Friday Book Review – The Life of Stephen Lawrence by Verna Allette Wilkins

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Friday 25th May 2012

“He was a wonderful son and a shining example of what any parent would want in a child. I miss him with a passion. Hopefully now he can rest in peace.”

Those are the moving words of Doreen Lawrence, whose 18 year old son Stephen was brutally murdered while he waited at a south east London bus-stop one evening in April 1993.

They’re featured in a sensitive and moving children’s book about the tragedy, which has just been updated following the January 2012 conviction of Gary Dobson and David Norris for Stephen Lawrence’s murder. As author Verna Allette Wilkins writes: “The police are still working on the case as they believe that there were other men involved in Stephen’s death. These men have yet to be brought to justice.”

Even though The Life of Stephen Lawrence is aimed at nine to 11 year olds, I reckon everyone should read it.  As well as highlighting his senseless murder and the findings of the Macpherson Report, which contained 70 recommendations for changes needed in the police force, justice system and society to ensure “zero tolerance” for racism, it lists the powerful legacy he has left behind. There’s the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, launched by Doreen and Neville Lawrence to ensure future generations of young people enjoy the opportunities denied to their son, the annual Stephen Lawrence Memorial Lecture and the Stephen Lawrence 18:18 campaign, which helps disadvantaged youngsters access jobs in the law, media and other fields which are difficult to get into.

But as well as numerous ideas for discussion and debate, this quiet, dignified book really does celebrate Stephen’s life. It vividly portrays an impressive young man who was a brilliant runner, a talented artist and had ambitions to become an architect. He was a real self starter who’d done work experience at a firm of architects, got work as an extra on the film For Queen and Country and designed and sold T-shirts featuring famous rappers.

As Mr Gladwell, his teacher at junior school, said: “Stephen was a good lad. We must make sure that we help all our children learn to live in peace. What happened to Stephen must never happen again.”

The Life of Stephen Lawrence by Verna Allette Wilkins (Tamarind, £4.99)

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