I do want to start looking at multicultural children’s literature in general, and in relation to the Caribbean. Therefore it was perhaps serendipitous that I picked up this book, Ping Pong by June Stoute in Barbados, at the airport, in the Best of Barbados shop. Everything in that sentence has meaning. The book Ping Pong is about the steel pan, invented in Trinidad; June Stoute is Barbadian; the children in the delightful illustrations by Suzette Humphreys and Jehanne Silva-Freimane depict the various ethnic groups of the Caribbean. That it was bought at the airport in a Best of Barbados shop, suggests that sales are to be gained out of a specialty store selling high end art and craft gift items. The book, in verse, was published in 2011 by Wordways, Barbados. At the end of the book there is information about the origin of the steel pan and steel bands today.
What is the significance of all of this? Well on the positive side, it’s great to have a multiethnic/multicultural book published for us. On the other hand, one would have to ask why a book like this is not in bookstores in all the islands, available for all our children to enjoy. Maybe it is in some of the other islands, I don’t know, but I’d be ready to swear that it’s not here, and yet a number of our schools have steel bands. Of course the price, once it is turned into Jamaican dollars, might seem prohibitive to some parents, but surely it should be in school libraries. These questions I’m posing are nothing new. I have posed them in one way or another, for years now, it seems. If we do not support one another, if we are not interested in one another, why should anybody outside of the region be interested in our books? As usual I live in hope, so that I hope that as people become more interested (yet again) in multicultural children’s literature, we will in some way get caught up in it as well. More about that in future blog posts.