24/08/2012 14:14 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Kids' Book Club: Noughts And Crosses

Kids' book club: Noughts and Crosses

"Noughts and Crosses' wasn't so much a book I wanted to write as a book I need to write," the children's author Malorie Blackman has noted.

Her most famous novel's central idea is brilliantly simple: this is an allegory about a society in which black people - 'Crosses' - are dominant, and white people - 'Noughts' - are second class citizens. Plasters are all brown, and Christmas is Crossmas.

White people are referred to as 'Blankers' - the paleness of their skin is seen as evidence that they are lacking and inferior. Dark is good; light is bad.

By reversing the typical prejudices of the world we live in, its casual, taken-for-granted racism becomes very obvious.

In this dystopian setting, Malorie Blackman tells a Romeo and Juliet tale - of Cross girl Sephy and Nought boy Callum, whose friendship and, later, love, are thwarted at every turn. The 2001 novel was an immediate hit, winning awards and praise from both young and adult readers.

Sequels Knife Edge, Check Mate and Double Cross followed, and Blackman was appointed an Officer of the British Empire in 2008.

Malorie Blackman worked in the IT industry before becoming a writer, and divides her time between scriptwriting for TV (her credits include Byker Grove) and books - she has written more than 50. She lives in Kent with her husband and daughter.

For young readers who need to understand the evils of discrimination and the importance of racial equality, this is a must-read, in the tradition of The Wave by Morton Rhue and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor.