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December 2016 Issue

Here's a sneak peek at some of what's in store in the upcoming issue. Full contributor list and access to the issue coming soon.


Snocone by © Jackie Hinkson. From Lost at Carnival

• Clara in the New World by Imam Baksh, Burt Award winning author of Children of the Spider

• Excerpt from Dancing in the Rain by Lynn Joseph, Américas Award winning author of The Color of My Words


• Excerpt from Morning Star Horse by Margarita Engle, Newberry Honor winning author of The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom

• Playground Tralala and Bougainvillea Girl by Fidelia Fisher

Special Segment: Self-Publishing Journeys

• A Bucket List Item Crossed Off: Write a Children’s Storybook by Gail Morong, author of Lost at Carnival

• A Pelican, A Publisher, Potential and Possibilities by Gregory Skeete, author of the Pilly the Pelican Children's Book Series

• Finding my Power through Self-Publishing by Marjuan Canady, author of the Callaloo Series


• Author to Author: A Conversation between Canadian-Caribbean picturebook authors Nadia L. Hohn (Malaika's Costume) and Itah Sadu (Greetings, Leroy!)

• 28 Surefire Ways to Keep your Children’s or YA Book on the Radar by Marsha Gomes-Mckie, Regional Adviser of the Caribbean South chapter of the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)

• Dr. Aisha Spencer reviews Dancing in the Rain by John Lyons

• Dr. Carmen Milagros-Torres reviews Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay

• Helen Williams reviews Malaika's Costume by Nadia L. Hohn

• Jamaica's Children's Writers Circle (1983-2006): A Retrospective by Diane Browne and Lorrise DaCosta


• Illustrations from The Black Lake by Featured Illustrator, Jade Achoy

• Illustrations from Ready.SET...HATCH! by Featured Illustrator, Jeunanne Alkins

Guests from Around the World

Night Owl and Limerick by Victoria Krylova (poetry, 16 years old)

Sock Bugs by Nicole Steadman (poetry)

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[Word from the Editor] What’s Important to Us? -The Value of Books, Libraries and Kid Lit in Caribbean Societies

Word from the Editor
Summer Edward

Today is World Values Day, an opportunity for us to think about our most deeply held values and to act on them. Earlier this year, the Caribbean Research Empowerment Network- CREN (a project of The University of the West Indies Family Development Centre) interviewed us for their Advocacy Works! Spotlight and asked us to articulate our mission. That interview gave me a chance to think about the values underlying Anansesem, both our online forum and our literacy advocacy work.

The World Values Day website states:
Values are what make us who we are. They are the compass guiding everything we do – our choices and our actions. When we forget that compass, we take the wrong turn. It’s the same for our families, for our communities, for the world. Our values show us the way. If we are aware of our values and put them into action each and every day, we can change our lives and change the world we live in.

It’s made me think...so what's our compass here at Anansesem? How do we support the growth of a values-driven children’s literature community that responds to what Jamaican-American poet and activist June Jordan called the “urgencies” of today’s Caribbean societies? It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and that I continue to think about.

We’ve all heard the bankrupt talk about the erosion of values in Caribbean societies. The idea that Caribbean people don’t care about things like reading and literary issues gets a lot of limelight, but my personal experience has shown me otherwise. The many teachers, parents, booksellers and librarians I’ve talked to over the years care deeply about the types of books children are reading. They are very concerned about the fact that Caribbean children too often don’t see themselves reflected in the very important stories of childhood.

Readers of our ezine care about things like young people’s access to quality literature, children’s literacy development and making culturally-responsive education the norm for future generations.

To characterize our societies as non-literate and static is to veil and dismiss the efforts of the many who have worked in the trenches to make cultural/literary enrichment available to young people, and to ensure that Caribbean children see healthy images of their cultures reflected in the mirror of books and other media. Not only that; when we “talk down” our literacies and our literary development, we tend to delegitimize the very real hunger that Caribbean children and youth have for books and set up harmful self-fulfilling prophecies that block young people from reaping the full benefits of a literate life.

If our values are the compass that guide us, then our compass has four main "directions". Here are the four foundational values underlying our magazine.

1. Books and Reading

Here at Anansesem, we insist on the personal, social and cultural value of reading for Caribbean young people and their families. The benefits of reading for children are well-documented. Reading opens minds and doors. Reading teaches children the importance and power of language, enhances concentration and discipline, builds vocabulary, stimulates cognitive development and boosts academic achievement. As children's book editor Janet Schulman once said, books "help give children a leg up on the ladder of life."

We affirm the educational and communal value of the read-aloud experience in individual and group sessions, something that is backed by extensive research. Read-alouds promote literacy growth, build enthusiasm for reading, help children become lifelong readers, strengthen child-caregiver relationships, teach children how to have accountable conversations about books, and help create reading communities where children can learn from each other and have positive bonding experiences.

When we read picturebooks in particular, we enhance children’s visual literacy and teach them about the power of the image to render the visible world.

We believe in the consoling power of books and of the reading process itself; books have the power to reach vulnerable youth and help them cope with mental, physical, emotional, or social challenges.

We insist on the right of children and adolescents to be bookworms and to read whatever they like (within healthy limits). Let children and young people read.

2. Libraries

We insist on the value of libraries as free and safe spaces that help children and youth prepare for school and for life. We insist on the necessity of thriving libraries in Caribbean schools and communities— libraries that evolve, innovate and meet patrons where they are through outreach.

For young people, libraries are creative spaces and the cornerstone of free access to information. Libraries are purveyors of knowledge in democractic societies. They provide critical community assets through stories and resource preservation. Importantly, we assert the value of libraries as cultural heritage institutions- sites for the production, dissemination and acquisition of cultural capital.

We insist on the right of children and adolescents to be avid and respected library patrons.

3. Children's Literature

It's probably obvious that we insist on the importance of children’s literature, but what exactly is it about children's literature that makes us passionate about it?

Children’s literature is important because it bestows upon children the currency of lifelong happiness— a childhood filled with joy, laughter and imagination. As Trinidad-born children’s author Floella Benjamin often says, “childhood lasts a lifetime.”

Children’s literature is important because it provides young people with opportunities to respond to literature in ways that build cognitive functions such as the ability to think critically, form their own opinions, express themselves through language, and summarize information.

Children’s literature is important because it helps young people (as well as the adults who read to them) appreciate their own cultural heritage as well as those of others. Books are “mirrors” and “windows” in which children can see their own cultural realities reflected, or “peek into” other cultures. Developing positive attitudes toward our own culture and the cultures of others fosters self-pride, empathy and cross-cultural competency, and promotes overall personal and social development.

Children’s literature is important because it helps young people develop emotional intelligence. Stories have the power to promote emotional and moral development and help develop children’s personality and social skills.

Children’s literature is important because stories expand the imagination, nurturing growth and development of children's creativity.

Children’s literature must be valued because it transmits important literary work, traditions and themes from one generation to the next.

We especially insist on the value of culturally-relevant and culturally-authentic children's literature., i.e., “children’s books that reference Caribbean children’s own physical likenesses, beliefs, and immediate everyday experiences. Such literature provides the crucial mirror or cultural reflection that children need in order to work out their value in society, see where they fit in, and develop a positive self-concept. Studies have shown that reading culturally-relevant literature: helps children better understand and engage more deeply with texts; successfully prepares young people for active citizenry in a democratic society; enhances young learners’ confidence and critical thinking skills; preserves and extends local traditions in an educational context; and builds children’s reading and writing proficiency.” [1]

We insist on what Clementine Beauvais, a Cambridge University PhD in children's literature, calls a “committed children’s literature”. A committed children’s literature challenges the status quo, is usefully subversive and encourages children to envision and enact change.

4. Children’s Publishing

We recognize the importance of being producers and not just consumers of books. We affirm the value of independent-publishing, community-based publishing, self-publishing and other creative approaches to publishing for the production of culturally-authentic children’s books.

We recognize the long and distinguished history of self-publishing in general, and in particular, in Caribbean societies and other societies marginalized by “mainstream” publishing. We affirm the value of many approaches to publishing children’s books as a way to counter the discrimination inherent in “mainstream” publishing.

We insist on the cultural and societal value of the children’s author and the children’s illustrator whether they are based in the Caribbean or nationals residing abroad.

We value the efforts of everyone involved in the development and production of Caribbean children’s books, and insist on their right to respect and renumeration. We insist on the children’s writer’s right to work, and we affirm the importance of funding and other supports for the work of the children’s writer.

We insist on the value of children’s writers speaking from their own personal and cultural perspectives without censorship.

I’ll leave you with these words from the World Values Day Guide:

If we don’t live our values to the full in our lives, then the communities we live in won’t live those values either. If our communities don’t reflect our values, then the wider world won’t reflect either. And so it won’t be a world we want to live in, where we can be fulfilled and happy.

To change the world for the better, we have to change the behaviours that currently make our world go round. And the only way to do that is for all of us to live our own values to the full.

Take good care,

Summer Edward
Foundress and Managing Editor


[1] Quote from “Cultural Authenticity in the Emerging Caribbean Picturebook Aesthetic” by Summer Edward (essay in sx salon.)

Do you share our values? Then don't forget to share this page!

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[Excerpt] Lion Island by Magarita Engle

Last week, Atheneum released Lion Island: Cuba's Warrior of Words, award-winning Cuban-American author Margarita Engle's eighteenth book for young readers. Here is the publisher's description:
In a haunting yet hopeful novel in verse, award-winning author Margarita Engle tells the story of Antonio Chuffat, a young man of African, Chinese, and Cuban descent who became a champion of civil rights.

Asia, Africa, Europe—Antonio Chuffat’s ancestors clashed and blended on the beautiful island of Cuba. Yet for most Cubans in the nineteenth century, life is anything but beautiful. The country is fighting for freedom from Spain. Enslaved Africans and nearly-enslaved Chinese indentured servants are forced to work long, backbreaking hours in the fields.

So Antonio feels lucky to have found a good job as a messenger, where his richly blended cultural background is an asset. Through his work he meets Wing, a young Chinese fruit seller who barely escaped the anti-Asian riots in San Francisco, and his sister Fan, a talented singer. With injustice all around them, the three friends are determined that violence will not be the only way to gain liberty.
Around the book's release date, reports surfaced that the Cuban government is blocking text messages containing words such as "democracy," "human rights," and "hunger strike," words that, in the Communist nation, often signal political dissidence. Engle, who has spoken often and eloquently about the power of words to heal and liberate, now brings us a historical YA verse novel of timely relevance, bringing light to bear on Cuba's decades-long human rights struggle and the role words play in documenting stories and shaping political landscapes. Enjoy this excerpt from the novel's opening.

Lion Island: Cuba's Warrior of Words

© Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2016


About the Author

Summer Edward is the Managing Editor and Kids Editor here at Anansesem. Her writing and art have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. Her home on the web is www.summeredward.com.

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[Excerpt] Coming to England by Floella Benjamin

Revisiting the classic book twenty years later.

A few years ago, I had the rare experience of speaking with Baroness Floella Benjamin, OBE via telephone for a two-part interview Anansesem ran in our May 2012 issue. It was a conversation I will never forget. We talked at length about her books for young people and her work championing causes close to her heart: children's rights; diversity and inclusion; young people's online safety. One of the things I remember most about that talk is the emotion in Benjamin's voice as she spoke about her experiences as a black immigrant child during England's "Windrush era". Decades after setting off on a ship to a new land, that classic immigrant's journey still informs the person Benjamin is; indeed, it has shaped her into the outspoken advocate for immigrant children that we know her as today.

In 1995, Benjamin published her classic memoir Coming to England recounting her childhood in Trinidad, immigration to England in the 1960s as a ten-year-old child, and the challenges she faced adjusting to a new life in the racially-charged South London suburb of Beckenham. The book is on the National Reading List for Schools in Britain and in 2003 it was adapted into a film for BBC TV. Macmillan Children's Books is set to release a twentieth-anniversary edition of the book this October, including a new foreword by the author, additional historical information, and illustrations by Michael Frith. The cover shown below is the twentieth-anniversary edition cover. Get a taste of the vividly-rendered novel with this extract.

Coming to England

© Pan Macmillan 2016

Chapter One

Life in Trinidad

 The day my brother Ellington was born my elder sister Sandra, who was four, my brother Lester, who was two, and I, aged three, were all out on the gallery – that’s what we called the veranda. My mother, whom we affectionately named Marmie, had told us that if we looked hard enough we would see a stork flying high in the sky with our new baby. I was hungry and really wanted Marmie to make one of her delicious soups for us, but I dared not take my eyes off the sky just in case I missed the big arrival.
Anyway, Mrs Jackson, the local midwife who lived in the lane opposite our house, said we couldn’t come into the house to see my mother until she called us.
I was beginning to feel more and more hungry, tired and anxious but I still kept my eyes glued to the heavens. Suddenly I heard the loud cry of a newborn baby. I felt happy but disappointed at the same time because I hadn’t seen the stork arrive. My mother told us it had come through the back door. I looked for it years later when my brother Roy and sister Cynthia arrived. Mrs Jackson was always there but I never spotted that elusive stork coming through the front or the back door!
The house we lived in was a small wooden building on stilts with dazzling whitewashed walls. There were windows and doors at the front and the back. We had two bedrooms which were the scene of many pillow fights and trampolining sessions, a small washroom, with a sink and cold tap, an airy kitchen with a large glassless louvred window where we also ate all our meals, and finally a sitting room where no one was allowed except on special occasions or when we had visitors.
This room was my mother’s pride and joy. Its brilliant white curtains always smelt fresh and the mahogany furniture was always highly polished, as was the wooden floor. My sister and I spent many hours polishing and shining that room from as far back as I can remember. We had to do the polishing before we left for school each day. The comfortable wooden chairs in the room were draped with crisp white lace headrests and the round table, which we ate from on Sundays and other special occasions, had a doily in its centre, on which sat a vase of glorious fresh flowers. These were from our small front garden, which was full of exotic, sweet-smelling flowers and shrubs such as beautiful flame-red hibiscus which seemed to attract swarms of exquisite butterflies and hovering humming birds, in search of nectar. The back yard was where Marmie grew vegetables for our kitchen, like pigeon peas, cassavas, okras and dasheen. A tall bushy tree stood in the yard, reaching up to the kitchen window, and whenever one of us had a bad cold Marmie would pick some of the leaves, boil them and give us the vile-tasting liquid to drink. It always made us better – I guess the thought of a second dose was enough to do the trick! Also in the yard was a galvanized shower unit where we had our baths. There was no hot tap but the cold water was always warm because of the heat of the sun. During the drought season, from around July to September, we would have to get water from a standpipe in the street. Everyone would queue up with large enamel buckets, oil cans, basins – anything big enough to carry the water. The washing was done under the house in a big wooden tub with a scrubbing board, and the washing lines hung between two trees in the back yard. Our car was also parked under the house.
At the very bottom of the yard was the latrine, the outside toilet. It was a small wooden hut and none of the planks of wood quite met, allowing chinks of light to shine through.
Inside was a four-metre deep hole, reinforced with concrete. A wooden seat was built on top like a throne. The lock for the door was a piece of string which was hooked over a large nail. The square pieces of toilet paper, cut out of sheets of newspaper, hung on one of the walls. The comic strip pages always made good reading, but the only problem was you could never finish a story because the last part had inevitably been chopped off to make another sheet.
I didn’t mind using the latrine during the day. I would imagine myself as a queen sitting on a throne holding court. But in the evening it was a different story. The scratching sound of the crickets, the loud deep croaks of the toads, the buzzing and flashing sparks of the night insects was enough to drive any child’s imagination wild and I was no exception. I hated having to visit that dark hole – even the flickering light of my candle was no defence or comfort.
I liked sitting on the gallery after dark, though. We would sit there at night on the two rocking chairs with my father, Dardie, who used to tell us some amazing tales: his own stories as well as Anancy stories, the tales that came from Africa to the Carribbean. Dardie was born in Antigua and came to Trinidad, where he met Marmie, when he was nineteen. So he would tell us about his homeland, and about the capitals of the world – where they were and how many people lived there. We were quizzed on these night after night. He also gave us vivid descriptions of American movies and filmstars and we were each given a filmstar’s name as well as a pet name. Mine was Martha Raye because I used to love to dance and sing like her. In fact we each had to do a party piece before we went to bed, parading and performing up and down the gallery like superstars. There was no television so we had to make our own entertainment. But once a month he would take us to see a film at the cinema in San Fernando.
Dardie felt it was his duty to open our eyes and minds to the world even though we lived on a small island just a few miles from South America. He always found time to play with us even though he worked hard as a field policeman. He patrolled the huge oil refinery at Point-a-Pierre which was near the oil field Forest Reserves in the southwest of the island. He wore a khaki uniform with brass buttons which we all took great pride in polishing every night so they would glitter in the sunshine like gold. We always ran to meet him on his way from work and he would carry us home like a strong giant, two under his arms and two on his shoulders, while the two youngest watched. Then he would toss us in the air like acrobats. Oh what excitement! We didn’t always have our meals with Dardie because he worked shifts, but we would crowd around him whenever he had his meals.
Food played a very important part in our lives. Marmie insisted that we had plenty of it and her cupboards were never empty. She insisted we all ate well so that we would grow up big and strong. Mind you we didn’t need much encouragement – it was always a race to see who finished first or ate the most food. Not a scrap was ever left on the plates.
For breakfast we would have fresh home-baked bread, scrambled eggs or saltfish, fresh fruits and tea, which could mean anything from fresh grated cocoa, coffee or tea itself. After breakfast we had to line up to be given a dose of cod liver oil which was hideous.
The fishy, oily liquid seemed to line the inside of the throat and stay there. It was one of the few things I didn’t want to be first in line for and when it was my turn I used to hold my nose and only the promise of a piece of orange would encourage me to take it. Marmie told us it was good for our bones and teeth, which was true but it didn’t make it taste any better.
For lunch it was either a rich tasty soup which was like a stew made of meat, pulses, vegetables and dumplings, or rice served with beef, chicken or, on Fridays, fish. For dessert we had whatever fresh fruit was in season: mangoes, pineapples, pawpaw or pomsitea, and for supper we had bread and cakes, all baked by Marmie, washed down with cocoa.
Saturday was Marmie’s baking day, and she would bake enough for the whole week. Bread or bakes – a sort of bread with no yeast, sweet bread – bread with coconut and sugar, sponge cakes and coconut drops. The smell of her freshly baked bread and cakes was wonderful – it always made me hungry. Sandra and I had to do our bit by helping to grease the baking tins and stir the cake mixture. The best part was when we fought over licking the cake bowl.
Sunday was a special day in Trinidad. It was the one time of the week when we all got together which gave me a happy feeling of belonging and a sense of occasion. The realization that the family unit was special began to take place during that time. We ate lavishly in the sitting room: the crisp starched white tablecloth would be spread out over the mahogany table, and the best glasses – frosted coloured ones – and plates were used. Then the table would be laden with dishes of food – it was like a feast. On the menu was brown down chicken, rice, plantains, callaloo, sweet potatoes, cassavas, gungo peas, macaroni cheese pie. To drink we would have soursop juice or limeade made from the fresh fruit and ice bought by my mother from the ice truck which came round every day. Not many people had refrigerators so the big blocks of ice would be wrapped in sackcloth and newspaper and would be kept in a big wooden tub. Pieces of ice would be broken off with an ice pick which was very sharp.
For dessert Dardie would make ice cream in a special ice cream tub. It was a thick metal churn inside a wooden tub with ice, salt and newspaper crammed between the two. The ice cream mixture was made up of custard powder, fresh vanilla, condensed milk, sugar and gelatine. He would always drop five cents into the churn and when the ice cream was served the lucky person who found the coin would keep it. We all excitedly took turns to churn the container round and round to make the ice cream set which seemed to take forever.
When Marmie was not cooking she was doing other household chores, and while she worked she sang songs. She didn’t have a particularly good voice but that didn’t stop her. Her singing was very infectious, so whenever we helped her we sang too. She sang whilst she washed, cooked, cleaned and ironed. The iron she used was a big heavy cast-iron one with hot coals inside it. She had to wrap a towel around the handle to hold it because it was so hot. Marmie also made all our clothes, even down to our knickers and petticoats. Most people made their own clothes but Marmie was always creative in what she made for us to wear. She had style, a real flair for fashion. People often used to stop and admire all six of us when we were dressed and out with her and Dardie.
The job Marmie seemed to love doing best was shopping at the local market. What a spectacular event that was. The market was a big concrete two-storey building with steps leading up to it. There were concrete slabs where the stallholders displayed their wares. Meat, fruit and vegetables had to be bought fresh every day. The smell was intoxicating: the air was full of the scent of fruit and spices mixed with a tinge of sea and sun. At the busy, bustling market the noise was deafening. The stallholders tried to outshout each other as they attempted to attract the attention of the customers. The customers, in turn, haggled over prices. You could buy anything there: live chickens, breadfruit, sugar cane, cocoa pods, pineapples, rice, sweet potatoes, sweetcorn, guavas, yams, dasheen, limes, grapefruit, mangoes, tomatoes, cassava and enormous watermelons. Watermelons have a special association for me because of the day I saw some unceremoniously topple out of a truck. It was on one of the many days when Marmie had sent Sandra and I to the market with a shopping list, some dollars and cents and instructions not to overspend but to get the best things. On the way to the market we saw a stray dog run across the road in front of a truck full of juicy watermelons. The driver had to slam on his brakes so hard that the flimsy wooden sides of the truck collapsed, sending the ripe watermelons cascading on to the road and leaving it awash in a sea of red mush. Shoppers scattered as the melons tumbled down the street – they, like us, could not stop themselves from laughing but the driver was furious. The dog disappeared into the crowd but the red colour of the watermelons stained the road for days.
It was also a great adventure whenever we had to buy fish. Sandra and I used to hold hands and skip down the lane to the wharf where the fishermen sold their catch. Fish of all sizes were on sale: red snappers, herrings, butterfish, barracudas, crabs, shrimps and lobsters. Once we were privileged to witness a fisherman’s dream – the biggest fish imaginable. It was about three times the size of me. The fisherman, who was the star of the day, had caught a shark and as customers gathered round to touch and admire the stone grey giant of a fish as it hung high, its vicious grinning mouth pointing to the ground, I pushed my way forward to get a closer look. I came eye to eye with the huge monster, and as I stared back at it I was convinced it winked at me.
Marmie sometimes took us shopping in the big towns, like San Fernando and Port of Spain, where there were large stores like Woolworths. There were also furniture stores as well as stores selling fabrics, books and shoes. These were very similar to the stores in any big city. I really didn’t like going to them because Marmie would always tell us not to touch the glass counters in case we broke them. I much preferred going to Mr Ching’s shop, which was like an Aladdin’s cave. It was our local corner shop and sold everything from scrubbing brushes and soap to butter and powdered milk, from shoelaces and matches to sweets and candles.
I found joy and pleasure in the simplest things. It took very little to make me happy because Marmie had taught us all how to be contented with what we had, how to make our lot seem the best in the world. I had learned from an early age how to have pride in myself and my country. During this period of my life everything seemed perfect.

Source: http://bit.ly/2cpuJmE


About the Author

Summer Edward is the Managing Editor and Kids Editor here at Anansesem. Her writing and art have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. Her home on the web is www.summeredward.com.

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[Quiz] How well do you know Caribbean children’s literature?

Who doesn't love quizzes? We do! It's been a while since we've been itching to create our very own quiz, and now, thanks to Qzzr, we've done just that. Our Children’s Books Trivia Quiz will put your knowledge of Caribbean literature for young readers to the test, covering everything from character names to author trivia to the plots of beloved stories. See how well you know some of the best-loved Caribbean children’s books around, and don’t forget to share your results on Facebook and Twitter afterwards.

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Summer & Fall 2016 Releases- Caribbean Books for Children & YAs

The year 2016 has already been an interesting year for Caribbean children's and young adult books. The spring release cycle brought us breakout books like Malaika's Costume by Jamaican-Canadian writer Nadia L. Hohn with illustrations by Irene Luxbacher and the YA novel A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry. Another YA debut, Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay, marks the Jamaican's author's first crossover into writing for younger audiences.

There have also been some noteworthy new works from veteran authors, of which Eric Velasquez's picturebook Looking for Bongo and Full Moon Night in Silk Cotton Village: A Collection of Caribbean Folk Tales by John Agard and Grace Nichols with illustrations by Rosie Woods stand out particularly. In February, Agard's typically quirky chapter book Going Batty was also released. Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina already looks to be another triumph for the award-winning Cuban-American author.

With Puerto Rican-American author Daniel Jose Older's YA novel Shadowshaper recently named a New York Times bestseller and Trinidadian John Lyon's children's poetry collection Dancing in the Rain shortlisted for the 2016 CLPE Children's Poetry Award (CLiPPA) last month, there is much to be excited about in regional children's and YA literature right now. Check out our seasonal listing of highly-touted new titles to be released later this year.

*All book synopses from the publisher's website.

Lion Island: Cuba's Warrior of Words
by Margarita Engle
YA novel. Pub date: August 2016

In a haunting yet hopeful novel in verse, award-winning author Margarita Engle tells the story of Antonio Chuffat, a young man of African, Chinese, and Cuban descent who became a champion of civil rights.

Asia, Africa, Europe—Antonio Chuffat’s ancestors clashed and blended on the beautiful island of Cuba. Yet for most Cubans in the nineteenth century, life is anything but beautiful. The country is fighting for freedom from Spain. Enslaved Africans and nearly-enslaved Chinese indentured servants are forced to work long, backbreaking hours in the fields.

So Antonio feels lucky to have found a good job as a messenger, where his richly blended cultural background is an asset. Through his work he meets Wing, a young Chinese fruit seller who barely escaped the anti-Asian riots in San Francisco, and his sister Fan, a talented singer. With injustice all around them, the three friends are determined that violence will not be the only way to gain liberty.

Where Do They Go?
by Julia Alvarez (Author) and Sabra Field (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Pub date: September 2016

Bestselling novelist (How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents) and children's (The Tia Lola Stories) author Julia Alvarez's new picture book is a beautifully crafted poem for children that gently addresses the emotional side of death. The book asks, "When somebody dies, where do they go? / Do they go where the wind goes when it blows? ... Do they wink back at me when I wish on a star? Do they whisper, 'You're perfect, just as you are'? ..." Illustrated by Vermont woodcut artist, Sabra Field, Where Do They Go? is a beautiful and comforting meditation on death, asking questions young readers might have about what happens to those they love after they die.

The Sun is Also a Star
by Nicola Yoon
YA novel. Pub date: November 2016

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Plus Don't Miss These Titles from Indie Publishers!

Children of the Spider
by Imam Baksh
YA novel. Pub date: July 2016

Mayali is a girl on the run. Driven by desperation and the search for her father, Mayali leaves behind everything she has ever known on her home world of Zolpash, a land of sulphur and harsh weather, and journeys to Guyana. There she meets Joseph, a boy without the gift of speech but with much to say. Together they go on a daring, cross-country adventure to save earth from the invading Spider gods and their armies. Will their warning come too late? Will anyone even believe them? And will Mayali be able to find her father?

Children of the Spider is a fast-paced adventure. The story moves from the lush hinterlands of Guyana through to the bustling city of Georgetown where the colonial past continues to rub shoulders with the gritty, contemporary world. It is a refreshing take on Caribbean myth and mythology from an interesting new voice.

Children of the Spider won first place in the 2015 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature.

The Flaca Files 2: The Case of the Three Kings
by Alidis Vicente
Chapter book. Pub date: May 2016

Flaca, or Detective Flaca as she prefers to be called, is pleased with her Christmas gifts. Finally, she has the tools needed to do her job: a fingerprint-taking kit, a police-quality mini flashlight, and most exciting of all, police tape to block off crime scenes! However, she is not at all pleased with the airline tickets to Puerto Rico she and her sister La Bruja are given. She has case deadlines to meet! La Bruja isn’t very happy either since their grandmother’s house doesn’t have air conditioning, cable TV or Wi-Fi.

Their parents are sure the girls will enjoy celebrating Three Kings Day, a huge holiday in Latin America that takes place on January 6 and involves putting grass in a box under the bed for the wise men’s camels. Three men on flying camels sounds very suspicious to Detective Flaca, who once again is faced with a case begging to be solved. Where do the Three Kings get the gifts to put in the boxes? Do they steal presents from Santa Claus? Or do they take them from under Christmas trees around the world?

The skinny second grader first introduced in The Case of the Missing Chancleta and Other Top-Secret Cases / La chancleta perdida y otros casos secretos is back on the case in the second installment of the bilingual series, The Flaca Files / Los expedientes de Flaca. Narrated by Detective Flaca in hard-boiled detective style, this short, bilingual novel for intermediate readers will appeal to seasoned and reluctant readers alike.

Dancing in the Rain
by Lynn Joseph
YA novel. Pub date: July 2016

Twelve year-old Elizabeth is no normal girl. With an imagination that makes room for mermaids and magic in everyday life, she lives every moment to the fullest. Yet her joyful world crumbles around her when two planes bring down the Twin Towers and tear her family apart. Thousands of miles away, yet still touched by this tragedy, Elizabeth is swimming in a sea of loss. She finally finds hope when she meets her kindred spirit in 8 year-old Brandt and his 13 year-old brother, Jared.

Brandt and Jared, two boys as different as Oreo and milk and just as inseparable, arrive on the island to escape the mushroom of sorrow that bloomed above their lives in the wake of the tragedy. Elizabeth shows them a new way to look at the world and they help her to laugh again. But can Elizabeth and Brandt help their families see that when life brings showers of sadness, it’s okay to dance in the rain?

Set against the dazzling beauty of the Dominican Republic, Dancing in the Rain explores the impact of the tragic fall of the Twin Towers on two Caribbean families. It is a lyrical, well-crafted tale about finding joy in the face of loss.

Dancing in the Rain won a Burt Award for Caribbean Literature (2015) prize.

by Phillis Gershator
YA novel. Pub date: Summer, 2016.

Is this a Cinderella story? Caribel’s stepmother treats her cruelly. But in Caribel’s story, there are also people who care for her: an uncle, who is now her pen pal, a spritely old lady who lives hidden away in the bush, and a devoted school teacher. Caribel hopes that someday she’ll become a real, “inside” member of her family, if only she can be good enough. She tries her best. She does her chores. She wins the school spelling bee.

But what does good enough mean? Can she be good and keep secrets, too? Or speak her mind? Or break a promise? Or, when the time comes, save her own life?

Broo 'Nansi and the Tar Baby
Collected and written by Dr. Lois Hassell-Habtes. Story as told by Ector Roebuck
Picture storybook. Pub date: Summer, 2016.

This Broo ‘Nansi story is the first in a new book series by Little Bell Caribbean appropriately titled Under the Big Tree: Traditional Tales of the Caribbean and Beyond. Our goal is to help preserve and continue the storytelling tradition for many generations to come.

Broo Tukuma knows better, but as the good brother that he is, he can’t watch his nephews starve. So, much against his better judgment, he takes Broo ‘Nansi (that good for nothing fellow) to get food from his secret garden. The trip turns into a disaster when Broo ‘Nansi disobeys his brother’s strict orders.

Another great Broo ‘Nansi story filled with the humor and wisdom that only this ancient little spider can impart. A must-read for all Virgin Islanders, and for anyone who loves a good tale.

Brown Pelicans
by Mario Picayo
Picturebook. Pub date: Summer 2016.

The first book in a new series of books about Caribbean nature.

Whether it flies, runs, crawls, swims, or just sways in the wind, Close to Nature will bring you a book about it. We dedicate our first volume to the brown pelican, a bird that most of us know by sight, but probably have learned little about. Did you know that pelicans have the longest bill of any bird in the world, and that it is one of the few land animals that can drink salt water?

Fully illustrated with stunning photographs taken in the Virgin Islands, Brown Pelicans will educate and delight readers of all ages.

We are Pirates / Somos Pirates
by Adrián Guerra (Author) and Angel Velazoo (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Pub date: Summer 2016

Two young readers decide to imitate their favorite book and follow the ways of the pirates by wearing handkerchiefs on their head, patches over one eye, and even making scary faces. But when it comes to having a parrot on their shoulder, things get a little tricky. The only parrot they know belongs to the neighbor. Can they be pirates without a parrot? Or will they have to become real pirates and steal the parrot? A very different children’s pirate book with a funny, surprising, and happy ending.

El Torneo de Trabalenguas / The Tonge Twister Tournament
by Nicolás Kanellos (Author) and Anne Vega (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Pub date: October 2016

“Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, doggies, kitties and mousies: Welcome to the grand Tongue Twister Tournament!” And so begins this championship in which the best tongue torturer will win the tongue twister trophy.

The competitors include a variety of quirky characters, including Lengua de Lagarto, or Lizard Tongue, whose tongue is tied “just so.” There’s Grumpy Granny, who raps about a raggedy cat, and El Chupacabras, who loves to eat critters, “even insects are for me / cows and cats and doggies too / chupa chupa chupa cabras, BOO!”

Many of the tongue twisters included in this picture book will be familiar to Spanish-speaking children—and their parents too! But the book also includes tried-and-true tongue twisters familiar to English speakers, like “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” With colorful illustrations depicting the unique contestants, this bilingual collection of phrases that are difficult to say quickly will challenge children to excel in both English and Spanish.

Where Did the Baby Go?
by David Gershator (Author) and Phillis Gershator (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Pub date: Summer 2016

Oh, no! Is the baby missing? Or hiding in plain sight? The noisy rooster knows where the baby is. Do you?

A dreamy mystery that the reader solves, visually, from the first page. The end of the book includes an added counting element with the sea and shore creatures pictured in the beautiful, vibrant illustrations.

Calling the Water Drum
by LaTisha Redding (Author) and Aaron Boyd (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Pub date: October 2016

Henri and his parents leave their homeland, Haiti, after they receive an invitation from an uncle to come to New York City. Only able to afford a small, rickety boat, the family sets out in the middle of the night in search of a better life. Out at sea Henri dreams of what life will be like across the great waters. Then the small boat overturns, and Henri is placed on top of the boat as his parents drift further out at sea. Overcome with grief, Henri retreats into himself and is no longer able to speak once he reaches land.

Encouraged by his uncle and neighbor, Henri takes a bucket and plays on it like a drum. The drumming becomes a link to his past and a conduit for his emotions. Slowly, through his drumming and the kindness of his uncle and friend, Henri learns to navigate this new and foreign world without his parents. Calling the Water Drum is a tender and timely tribute to the bravery of immigrants and refugees, and the resiliency of the human spirit.

A Surprise for Teresita / Una sorpresa para Teresita
by Virginia Sánchez-Korrol (Author) and Carolyn Dee Flores (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Pub date: November 2016

When Teresita opens her eyes that morning, she knows it’s a special day. It’s her birthday, and now she’s a big girl. She’s seven! And her Tío Ramón has promised her a surprise. She can’t wait to find out what it is!

“Is it time for Tío Ramón to come to our block?” she asks her mamá excitedly as she sits down for breakfast. But it’s too early. Her uncle has to take his snow cone cart to the other blocks before he comes to theirs. All day, Teresita watches for the green and white cart. She listens for Tío Ramón calling, “Snow cones, cold snow cones. ¡Piraguas! ¡Piraguas frías!”

While she waits for her uncle, she jumps rope, plays games with her friends and watches the goings-on in her neighborhood. Mothers hold their young children’s hands as they walk to the corner bodega to buy groceries. Boys and girls ride bikes and play stickball. Older people sit at their windows and enjoy the sights and sounds of their community. And coming from far up the block where water sprays from an open fire hydrant, Teresita finally hears the sound of her uncle’s voice. What will her surprise be?!?

Set in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in New York City, this bilingual picture book for children ages 4 – 8 captures both the daily life of an urban community and a child’s excitement about her birthday surprise. Children will be inspired to look at—and maybe even write about—their own neighborhoods with new eyes.


About the Author

Summer Edward is the Managing Editor and Kids Editor here at Anansesem. Her writing and art have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. Her home on the web is www.summeredward.com.

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Caribbean Books for Children to Read on Earth Day

Today is Earth Day! According to the Earth Day website, the Earth Day campaign is "designed to provide people with the opportunity to unite their voices in a call for a sustainable future." These environmentally-conscious children's books are all set in the Caribbean and can be used to help children and adults alike think about what they can do to help protect and preserve the environment.

1. The Promise of the Pawi by Janice Hernandez, illustrated by Leizelle Guinness
(Lonsdale Saatchi & Saatchi)

Published by the Guardian Wildlife Trust in collaboration with the Asa Wright Nature Centre (Trinidad), The Promise of the Pawi highlights the plight of Trinidad’s only endemic bird, the endangered Trinidad Piping Guan or Pawi. The Promise of the Pawi is aimed at children 4 to 11 and serves a dual purpose – to educate young readers and to raise funds to support the work of the Trust.

2. Beba and Little Sister Island/ Beba y la Isla Nena by Rafael Landrón, illustrated by Maria Antonia Ordonez
(Campanita Books, 2010)

Beba is a young manatee who works with her animal friends to end the bombing and destruction of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. Based on actual events, Beba and Little Sister Island is a fable about how courage, solidarity, and respect for the land and the sea saved a little island for its inhabitants and for generations to come.

3. Bri and Luk: Friends In Times of Changing Climates: Climate Change Adaptation for Caribbean Youth by Nicole Garofano
(Future Centre Trust, 2010)

Bri and Luk: Friends In Times of Changing Climates is the first book in the Future Centre Trust's (Barbados) Climate Change Learning Series designed to help students and their teachers understand the effects of global climate change on Barbados and the region. Here the story of Luk the polar bear unfolds. Luk comes to the Caribbean with his friend Bri the hummingbird to learn from the local animals and children how climate change is beginning to affect them.

4. Jessica by Christine Leo, illlustrated by Kim Harley
(Tamarind Books, 1998)

Jessica is a beautiful mermaid who lives in the Caribbean sea. She surfs the Information Superhighway and the ocean waves with equal ease. She is a traveler, a fighter against pollution and a real friend of the animals of the ocean. With her friends - dolphins, sea horses and other sea creatures - she foils a group of sailors who dump poisonous cargo into the Caribbean sea.

5. The Reggae Band Rescues Mama Edda Leatherback by Jana Bent
(KQC Enterprises, 2011)

Mama Edda, the Leatherback Sea Turtle is struggling to get to land. She has to lay her eggs but she's in distress. Can the Reggae Band come up with a way to rescue Mama Edda? This CD storybook gives children hands-on advice for how they can help protect the environment, respecting their power to do something to make a positive change in the world. It teaches the importance of recycling, reducing and reusing waste, with tasks children can easily do.

6. The Sea, the Storm, and the Mangrove Tangle written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004)

First a seed is jostled from a branch of a mangrove tree and floats far away to a lagoon in the Caribbean Sea. Then it takes root, sprouts leaves, and slowly begins to grow. Over many years, the mangrove will provide a home for numerous creatures of land and sea. This chronicle of the life of one mangrove tree details the abundant wildlife that depends upon its unique and wonderful ecosystem, one that is beneficial to so many, but one that also faces many dangers.

7. My Island and I : The Nature of the Caribbean by Alfonso Silva Lee, illustrated by Alexis Lago
(Pangaea, 2002)

My Island and I is a picturebook about the natural ecology of an island - from fallen trees becoming food for fungi and termites, to the thoughts of lizards and the interaction of fish. How did animals and plants first get to the islands? How do they live together? This enchanting introduction to island biodiversity allows children to visualize relationships between Caribbean creatures and the water and sky—and to see how we, too, are one with each island.

8. Undersea City: A Story of a Caribbean Coral Reef by Dana Meachen, illustrated by Katie Lee
(Soundprints, 1997)

From the beach of Saona Island off the coast of the Dominican Republic, a hermit crab explores the Caribbean coral reef and its creatures. The book and tape introduce the habitat of the coral reef and island beaches to young readers. In addition to the story, there is some background on Saona Island and the Taino people who live there.

9. Ibis Stew? Oh, No! by Joanne Gail Johnson, illustrated by Katie McConnachie
(Macmillan Caribbean, 2005)

This is the story of the evil pirate Captain Bad who sets sail on the Caribbean Sea to hunt down the Scarlet Ibis to make into a stew. However his plans are interrupted when he meets up with Omo and Pete who hatch a plan to try to make him change his ways. Written in the form of a story poem, Ibis Stew serves as a gentle reminder of the importance of conservation of our endangered birds.

10. Shelley written and illustrated by Katherine Orr
(Macmillan Caribbean, 1994)

Shelley tells the life story of the conch shell, Shelley, tracing her life cycle from her beginning as a drifting baby, no bigger than a pinhead, to the time when she produces her own offspring. Fascinating facts about the life of the conch and other marine animals with which it comes into contact show the importance of conserving this beautiful creature. 


About the Author

Summer Edward is the Managing Editor here at Anansesem. Her stories, poems and art have been published in various journals and anthologies. Her home on the web is www.summeredward.com.

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This Month's Books