Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Caribbean books from other territories for older children

I'm back at the the books for older children. These two books were scheduled to be mentioned before this, but other things got in the way and got posted instead.

As usual these are not reviews. They are just drawing persons' attention to books that are out there, what I liked about them, which I hope will encourage you to read them if you haven't yet done so.
Harriett's Daughter. by Marlene Nourbese Philip, Heinemann. Everybody knows this book, I suspect, as it has been in schools for some time, but I so loved it when I first read it: 'A new novel for Caribbean children', a 'modern/contemporary' novel; a book looking at the migrant experience in Canada, the voice of Harriet (previously Margaret) the spirited protagonist, reaching out to us all the way from Canada to the Caribbean.

And yes, regions where West Indians have settled and write their books about their lives/our lives, count as 'books for Caribbean children'. Their lives are inextricably intertwined with ours. They call out to us: "See how well we doing (even if life hard as hell, but they know the next generation will make the leap); come and join us any time, man", or "Why you don't run the country better than that? All that foolishness you going on with down there ruining our reputations here". I'm sure you've seen the letters in the newspapers or heard the call-in programmes where our overseas people passionately share their feelings, their pride, their frustrations, and underlying all, their love for the Caribbean. Most of us have family who have migrated time and time again, whose lives tug at our heart strings down through the years.
I'm glad that over the years children have met Harriet's Daughter in school as a set book. Set books sometimes get a bad name; 'if it's a set book it must be a dreadful experience'. Not so! If it wasn't for set books, some children would never read anything Caribbean. How about read anything at all?

Little Island - Big Adventures, Maria Roberts Squires, a new novel (2007) by Carlong Publishers, is set in the Grenadines. Delightful protagonists again, a spirited girl and her best friend, a boy. It tells of island life past (1962 - no, that is not ancient times! It's an important era; that of Independence for many of the territories), a simpler life, but not boring. It deals with the everyday incidents/adventures that children have, the problems they face, the solutions they hope for. I also found it interesting because it deals with a 'light skinned' family. It's good for our children to know that they too lived a normal life, went barefoot, etc.
This aspect is also interesting because I think at times in our fervour to address past wrongs ('we not in books at all' - one of my reasons for writing) we forget that all kinds of ethnic groups lived here and still do, and we shouldn't be afraid to 'make them people' too.

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