Noughts and Crosses

Malorie Blackman

Illustrated by Kingsley Nebechi

Introduced by Benjamin Zephaniah

Introduced by Benjamin Zephaniah and illustrated by Kingsley Nebechi, this stunning Folio Society edition of Noughts and Crosses showcases Malorie Blackman’s award-winning thriller set in a reimagined Western society.

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Former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman’s best-selling alternative history has achieved cult status among young and adult readers alike. This striking Folio edition is introduced by Benjamin Zephaniah, names one of The Times’s 50 Greatest Post-war Poets, while London-based Nigerian illustrator Kingsley Nebechi illustrates the novel. His strong pictorial style perfectly matches our design vision and his startling illustrations reflect the challenges of the subject matter, while alluding to his passion for comic books and art styles from Africa.

Together with our friends at SixbyNines & Co, we hosted a virtual event to celebrate the publication of our new edition of Noughts and Crosses. The event was a live conversation between esteemed journalist and broadcaster Brenda Emmanus and acclaimed illustrator Kingsley Nebechi. If you missed out, you can stream this fascinating conversation here: 

Bound in printed and blocked textured paper

Set in Galliard with Moonshot display

376 pages

Frontispiece plus 6 colour illustrations

Illustrated part-titles

Printed endpapers

Blocked slipcase

9½″ x 6¼″

‘It is loved by rappers and poets, teachers and students, lovers and clubbers, because it is a timeless work of art’
  1. Benjamin Zephaniah, from his introduction

Poet, novelist and playwright, Benjamin Zephaniah was also an award-winning songwriter and folk performer. His introduction, which was specially commissioned for the Folio edition, traces his personal journey with Noughts and Crosses and the resonance it had with his own experiences, as well as the wider impact of the novel on both young and older readers: ‘For some, this is how it has been; for others, this is how it could be’.

This intimate understanding of the narrative is also expressed in the edition’s illustrations. Sought-after artist Kingsley Nebechi has an impressive client list that includes Nike, Island Records and the BBC. His graphic design background is evident throughout his commission, which focuses on the intensity of Callum and Sephy’s bond against a backdrop of prejudice. The bold colours and rich symbolism result in a dynamic storyboard, while the recurring ‘X’ and ‘0’ motif that flows alongside the narrative creates an immersive reading experience.

‘It is barely fictionalised at all. This world is our world – same technology, same geography, same government – only flipped’
  1. Guardian

Thought-provoking and compelling, Noughts and Crosses takes the timeless premise of forbidden love and sets it in Albion, a segregated society where light-skinned noughts are suppressed by the ruling black Crosses. When Sephy, the Cross daughter of a government official, falls in love with her nought housekeeper’s son, Callum, the power of love and optimism of youth are put to the ultimate test. 

White, working-class and, by default, inconsequential, Callum struggles to improve his lot in a country where the education system, welfare state and government unapologetically favour Cross advancement. From her privileged vantage point Sephy struggles to empathise but, as their relationship develops, she begins to appreciate the danger and disillusionment of Callum’s world.

Noughts … Even the word was negative. Nothing. Nil. Zero. Nonentities.

Racism is at the heart of this searing alternative history. However, themes of terrorism, class, politics and relationships are all addressed too; seamlessly woven into a narrative that never feels overloaded. Above all, Noughts and Crosses is a brilliantly conceived, edgy thriller with a gripping story that has won the admiration and adoration of readers around the world.

‘A fable that tips the world upside down, challenging assumptions some of us never even knew we had’
  1. New Statesman

Malorie Blackman has written over 70 books for children and young adults, including the Noughts and Crosses series, Thief (1995) and a science-fiction thriller, Chasing the Stars (2016). Many of her books have been adapted for stage and television, including a BAFTA-award-winning BBC production of Pig-Heart Boy (1997) and a Pilot Theatre stage adaptation by Sabrina Mahfouz of Noughts and Crosses. In 2005 Blackman was awarded the Eleanor Farjeon Award for her distinguished contribution to children’s fiction. In 2008 she received an OBE, and between 2013 and 2015 she was the Children’s Laureate. Blackman has written for the Doctor Who series on BBC One, and Crossfire, the fifth novel in her Noughts and Crosses series, was published in summer 2019. In 2020 BBC One aired a major six-part production of Noughts and Crosses, with a soundtrack curated by Roc Nation.

Dr Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah is a poet, writer, lyricist and musician. He was born and brought up in Handsworth, Birmingham, which he has called ‘the Jamaican capital of Europe’. His poetry is strongly influenced by the music and poetry of Jamaica as well as by his sense of ‘street politics’. In addition to writing poetry, novels, screenplays and stage plays, Zephaniah has also written and presented documentaries for television and radio. He has received 18 honorary doctorates in recognition of his work, and a wing at Ealing Hospital in London has been named after him. Zephaniah lives in Lincolnshire.

Kingsley Nebechi is a graphic designer, illustrator and artist based in London. After graduating in 2013, he first worked at design agency ilovedust. His artistic career was publicly launched with his solo exhibition ‘A Soulful Mind’ at the Espacio Gallery, London, in 2017. His corporate clients include Nike, the BBC, Hachette Book Group and Island Records, and among his private clients are the likes of Lauryn Hill, Akala and Stormzy.


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