I have seen and read my first Caribbean children’s e-book! The book is The Mermaid Escapade by Suzanne Francis-Brown (Amazon UK). One of us has done it! Congratulations to Suzanne! You cannot imagine how excited I was to see this breakthrough. The book is YA/tweens (as this new in-between age group is called). It’s an adventure which incorporates fantasy and fact. The fantasy is the mermaids and other sea creatures which are linked to our own River Mumma. The conflict for the adventure is partly that human children and mermaids should never see each other, much less interact with each other, but they do in this story. Another challenge is that seawater is infiltrating coastal rivers and wells. This could be a human catastrophe. In this story we discover that not only humans may be affected. The language is delightful, the images well crafted – I kept being reminded of a CD of a movie my grandchildren watched. In other words, the writer’s images come to life without illustrations. The only illustration is the cover. Of course, we do not need images in YA or tween books, so this solves the challenge of getting illustrations into children’s e-books. The other thing I liked was the detailed, yet not intrusive, descriptions and explanations of the land where it meets the sea, the rivers as they meet the sea, the imaginary life, yet scientifically based (the fact part of the story) which is created just beneath the surface, and the workings of the groundwater area beneath our feet. So this book takes us into our environment without having to shout ‘environment’, which is great for the target group. This accuracy in depicting an environment is important in that it gives integrity to the story without detracting from the fantasy elements. I do hope that this book makes its way not only into homes, but also into our schools.
Now, as far as I know, this is the first Caribbean children’s e-book, that is, written by a Caribbean person living in the Caribbean. This is not to detract from authors like Geoffrey Philp, who has to date two Children’s e-books with illustrations. He is a torch bearer. It’s just that when one actually resides in our islands/countries it seems more challenging to do something like this, and therefore it requires a greater ‘shout out’. However, if you know of others, please let me know about them, both from authors living here and in the Diaspora. I’m sure that all of us will want to take note of these bold people and then follow where we have not yet dared to go, much as we want to. And before you say, “But what she talking about? Is easy like what to do an e-book”, then I beg you email me and offer your services because I have one almost ready – still needs illustrations (it’s a picture book), and hopefully I can afford them. That’s the other challenge, you see. firstname.lastname@example.org. But we moving forward!
May is child month and there have been special reading days/children’s days, reading week, etc. I mentioned (on facebook, I think) seeing a photo with the Prime Minister reading to children, and we could actually see the cover of the book, and it was a local book, Shaggy Parrot and the Reggae Band by Jana Bent. Well I must say that there has been magnificent coverage in the press of the child month activities, of adults reading to children, and even of an author talking with children. In this case, it was another of our younger writers, Kerine Miller, author of Coop Clan (mentioned previously in posts of mine). And even though I see our authors visiting schools on facebook, it’s so important also to see them in the press, because then ‘normal people' might think that local books are important enough for them to buy them for their children/schools. Same old same old, eh! However, I must say that I feel as if there might be a groundswell of interest in reading, perhaps even a recognition of the fact that there are Jamaican children’s writers. What a something, guys! Yes, I read at a primary school also and it was very enjoyable. Children love books, you know!