Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Caribbean Picture Story Books: much to celebrate

These are Caribbean picture story books I've come across recently. Some of the authors are relatively young so that's excellent for Caribbean writers and Caribbean children. I think that there is publishing going on in each territory that the others are not aware of; I hope we can change that by our various organizations and, yes, by our blogs. This highlights some of the books. There is much to celebrate here.

From Barbados:

Butterflies, Beatles, Bees and Bugs written and illustrated by Jason Cole, 2002. This book is in rhyme and the illustrations are hilarious. About insects we don't like, it should make any little boy shout with delight (protagonist is a boy). Little girls too, will shriek as they enjoy the scary insects. This book moves away from the stories 'about us in the Caribbean' in that it deals with a topic which could be anywhere and which will appeal to the TV/DVD viewing generation of children.

Away to Bequia by June Stoute, illustrated by Jehanne Silva Freimane, Oraef Inc., 2007. This book is also in rhyme, great for this age group; the illustrations are bold and bright. It's about a boat trip with the extended family which consists of various ethnic groups, both aspects so much a part of Caribbean society. The children look at the stars, see birds and sea creatures. The endmatter gives additional information about things from the text and creatures seen on the trip. An environmental treat.

From Trinidad:

Boy Boy and the Magic Drum, by Machel Montano, illustrated by Kenneth Scott, Caribbean Planet Limited, 2009. This is a story about innovation, the steel pan, and saving the environment. The protagonist is a boy. The message is carried by text that sometimes imitates the sounds of the steel pan and by delightful illustrations which capture the movement of the soca music that is on the accompanying CD. Machel Montano is an well-known entertainer. Great when our entertainers turn their talents to children's books.

From Jamaica:

Little Lion Goes for Gold by Kellie Magnus, illustrated by Michael Robinson, Jackmandora, 2008. In rhyme and exceedingly funny, this is the third book in the Little Lion Series. Little Lion is a Rastafarian boy who overcomes challenges with the aid of his father. Excellent for boys because of the supportive father figure and the boy who succeeds against all odds; this time he wins a medal for his school's track team. Kellie Magnus, by developing a series, points the way for other Caribbean writers. Excellent for ongoing marketing and promotion.

Shaggy Parrot and the Reggae Band, by Jana Bent et al, KQC Enterprises, 2008. This book is also accompanied by a CD and the performers include Shaggy, famous entertainer, et al. Music is by "Badda Banz" - Rupert Bent 111, et al. In it creatures try to save a waterfall which is shown with a face, crying, or laughing when all the rubbish is cleared up. The illustrations are colourful; the text is in rhyme; the creatures play musical instruments. The endmatter has the words for the songs as well as a visual glossary of animals and musical instruments. The CD has the songs and the sounds of different instruments. Many talented people got together to produce this multimedia feast with its environmental message. Children love it. I've seen them recite it by heart, sing along with it, or literally almost jump into the book with excitement.

It didn't occur to me until I'd done this that we have a number of boy protagonists. Great! They are too often missing from stories. All libraries in the Caribbean should have copies of these (and other Caribbean books also). Let's support the books coming from our younger Caribbean writers.


  1. The children love the books with the CDs especially the music. Dancing comes so readily to us Caribbean people ( That's a stereotype I hope we never lose.) At my church which has a band instead of organ, as soon as the music starts for Praise and Worship even the babes in arms start to jump. It obviously makes them very happy. I hope we can produce more CDs with music backing the stories, especially for the younger ones. it might encourage them to think of books as fun.

  2. Thanks for these suggestions. While I buy much of the children's literature that I come across, I must confess that I don't usually enjoy reading the books. Too often the stories are far too text-heavy with pictures that really don't do much for me. It is as if images are used to break up the text, rather than to convey the story. I'm not the first or only one to say this, but the pictures are AS important as the words, so they should be treated as such. And pictures don't have to be literal either - they can evoke and suggest, rather than tell. If we want children to enjoy reading, authors also have to invite children to get involved in the story as it unfolds.

  3. Books have always been a source of information, comfort, and pleasure for the people who know how to use them. This is just as true for children as adults. Indeed, it is particularly true for children.