September 9, 2010

Name a Caribbean children's book every child should read.


Name a children's  Caribbean children's book every child should read.

Okay, maybe we aren't yet at the stage that Summer writes about, but we can make a start.

I'm refashioning a Plinky prompt: :



Joanne said...

I'm going to say anything Anansi related...the spider has always respond to him. Some good example are found in Philip Sherlock's West Indian Folk Tales or illustrated Anansi...also there's Ashley Bryan's Dancing Granny (which features the wily fellow).

Geoffrey Philp said...

Thanks, Joanne.
This is very helpful...

Summer Edward said...

Here are my picks:

-Jamaican Song and Story: Anancy Stories, Digging Sings, Ring Tunes, and Dancing Tunes by Walter Jekyll (1907)

This is a seminal collection of 108 Jamaican folk songs collected by a white British expatriate and folklorist residing in Jamaica in the early 20th century. This book has served as the basis for much research in Jamaican folk music and folklore and is still considered 'seminal' to this day. Surprisingly, not many people know about it. The text is valued by scholars and researchers and historians of Caribbean folk music but because the original publication doesn't have the appearance of a children's book, it hasn't typically been valued as a text that contemporary Caribbean children might enjoy. I think more Caribbean people --and Ministries of Education-- need to appreciate what this text offers in terms of being a historical text with value for Caribbean children and young people.

-Anansi The Spider Man (1954)
-West Indian Folk-tales (1966),
-Iguana’s Tail: Crick, Crack Stories from the Caribbean (1969)
-Ears and Tails and Commonsense: More Stories from the Caribbean (1974)

All of the above are by Sir Philip M. Sherlock (Hilary Sherlock collaborated on one or two)

-Backfire: a collection of short stories from the Caribbean for use in secondary schools (that's the actual title) (1973) by Neville Giuseppi and Undine Giuseppi

For the sheer historical value. These were among the first compilations of folk stories used with juniors in the Caribbean. They were among the first texts written by West Indians to be used in Caribbean schools. On top of that, they are also marvelously written.

-Hurricane (1964)
-Drought (1966)
-Riot (1967)
-Jonah Simpson (1969)

All of the above are by Andrew Salkey (Jamaican)

Again, for the sheer historical value. Salkey, along with Sherlock, is one of THE pioneers in the establishment of West Indian children’s literature. Also, Salkey was the forerunner in terms of introducing Creole (mixed with "Standard" English)into books for Caribbean juniors.

–Jewels of the Sun by Ralph Prince (1979) (Antigua)
-King of the Masquerade by Michael Anthony (1974) (Trinidad and Tobago)
-Time Out by Monica Skeete (1978)
-Hummingbird People by C. Everard Palmer (1979)

The above were all published by Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd. in their Caribbean Authors Series.


The historical value of the Nelson & Sons Caribbean Authors Series books is that they were the first "post-Independence books" for Caribbean children that were not folktales or folktale-ish in nature. Also, I believe this was the first Caribbean series for children/juniors although they were still published by a London-based publisher.

Summer Edward said...

- The "Monkey Polo" stories by Albert Ramsawack (Trinidad)

Ramsawack was one of the first Caribbean children's writers to illustrate his own stories. He was also a pioneer in terms of mixing folk and story elements from various cultures, particularly from Creole, Western/European, African, and East Indian cultures. In fact, I would consider all of Ramsawack's works published in the 1980's to be approaching "classic" status.

A lot of Ramsawack's stories from the 1970's and 1980's were serialized or published in the weekly Sunday Guardian Magazine
and later the Sunshine Magazine (both produced by the Trinidad Guardian newspapers). Indeed, much seminal Caribbean children's literature has often been overlooked because of the non-standard publication sources of the stories. There are some important Caribbean children's stories that were first published in Caribbean newspapers and by Caribbean libraries and Ministries of Education. We also have to look in the school texts -readers and social studies books - that Caribbean children have used since before Post-Indpendence to find some of the great, overlooked Caribbean children's literature of the past. For example, the New Nelson West Indian Readers published in the 1970's and used in schools across the English-speaking Caribbean were pivotal because they departed from the overwhelmingly Eurocentric content and values of the older Nelson West Indian readers published by Nelson Thornes Ltd. in London. For the first time, Nelson Thornes Ltd. recruited West Indian people to author and compile the readers, folks like Undine Giuseppi, Gordon Bell and Clive Borely (all from Trinidad and Tobago.) So the New Nelson West Indian Readers must not be overlooked because they were school books; I see them as seminal Caribbean children's literature texts in their own right.

Going back to stories with non-standard publication sources, there are many such discrete stories I could name but to give an example, I'm thinking of "Baucumar –The Carib: A Play in One Act for Schools" by Ronald Nanton, published by the Ministry of Education in Trinidad in 1982. This is a rare example of a Caribbean children's story focusing on the Amerindian presence in the Caribbean (it's also the only Amerindian children's play in the history of Caribbean children's literature) and yet because of the limited availability/accessibility of print copies today and the fact that the story has its origins in the primary education system many people don't know about the story of Bacumar the Carib.

-Nini at Carnival by Errol Lloyd, (1979)

Perhaps the first "Caribbean Cinderella" story ever written :-)

I also have to add:

- All of Michael Anthony's children's novels published since the 1970's: Sandra Street and other Stories, Cricket In the Road, Green Days by the River etc.

-The Wooing of Beppo Tate (1972) by C. Everard Palmer

These books are crucial, even historical, for their portrayals of the experiences of children in post-colonial societies and who the societies that consolidated after Emancipation viewed the child. Also, it it with the publication of these children's novels in particular that we really begin to see Caribbean children's literature transitioning decisively from the oral and folk tradition/orature phase into literature/the literacy phase. So they are pivotal books in that sense.

There are more, but these would probably top my list!