Featured Illustrators


[Book List] 2017 Releases- Caribbean Books for Children & YAs

It's never too late to start reading your world so if you want to discover the special universe of Caribbean children's and YA lit, our round-up of titles releasing this year is a good place to start. In keeping with our usual new year tradition (see our 2016 list here), we've compiled forthcoming titles for the young and young at heart written by Caribbean authors or with Caribbean protagonists.

The coming year will bring new books from Tracey Baptiste, Emma Otheguy, Ruth Behar, John Agard, Adam Silvera, Ismael Cala, Pablo Cartaya, James Edward English and Anansesem alumni Olive Senior, Nadia L. Hohn, Itah Sadu, Margarita Engle and Ibi Zoboi. Some are debut authors (like Haitian-American writer-to-watch Ibi Zoboi whose short story "The Little Golden Stone Man" appeared in our September 2011 issue) and some are seasoned writers who are breaking new ground (like Margarita Engle, who will cross over into the fantasy genre for the first time).

If we missed any books, please let us know in the comments section below. This list will be updated throughout the year as we discover new titles and book covers. These books are all available for pre-order in our bookstore. Happy reading!

*All book synopses from the publisher's website.

Greetings, Leroy
by Itah Sadu (Author) and Alix Delinois (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Groundwood Books. Pub date: May 1, 2017

The first day at a new school is nerve-wracking enough, never mind when it’s in a new country! In this lively picture book from award-winning storyteller Itah Sadu, Roy realizes he may come to love his new home in Canada as much as he loves his old home in Jamaica.

Written as an email to a friend back home, this picture book tells the story of Roy, whose family has just moved to Canada from Jamaica. His new home is different from his old home – in Canada, even the sun feels cold! His nerves ease, though, as welcome reminders of home follow him through his day. His neighbor gives him a button as a gift for his first day of school. The principal tells him about the soccer team and his new class makes him feel welcome.

Everything is looking up until Roy goes to show his classmates his new button and he can’t find it! He rushes back to the principal’s office where they look up and down and all around for the button. Thanks to his powers of observation, Roy finds it in an unexpected place and is able to show it to his new friends. The friendly people he meets, and their shared love of Bob Marley, make for a good start at his new school. By the end of the day, Roy is happy to find a piece of his old home in his new home.

Sadu captures the voice of a young boy in a new country in this story about finding a new home while still staying proud of where you’re from. Harlem-based artist Alix Delinois shows the joy of making new friends with his vibrant, layered paintings.

Boonoonoonous Hair
by Olive Senior (Author) and Laura James (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Tradewinds Books. Pub date: February 15, 2017

In this beautifully illustrated picture book written by Commonwealth Prize-winning author Olive Senior and illustrated by the much-acclaimed artist of Anna Carries Water a little girl learns to love her difficult-to-manage curly hair.

All the Way to Havana
by Margarita Engle (Author) and Mike Curato (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Henry Holt & Company. Pub date: August 29, 2017

So we purr, cara cara, and we glide, taka taka, and we zoom, zoom, ZOOM!

A family drives into the city of Havana to celebrate a cousin's first birthday. Before their journey, the boy helps his papa tune up their old car, Cara Cara, which has been in their family for many years. They drive along the sea wall, along the coast, past other colorful old cars. The sounds of the city are rich—the putt putts and honks and bumpety bumps of other cars chorus through the streets. A rich celebration of the culture of the Cuban people, their resourcefulness and innovative spirit, and their joy.

American Street
by Ibi Zoboi
YA novel. HarperCollins. Pub date: March 23, 2017

American Street is an evocative and powerful coming-of-age story perfect for fans of Everything, Everything; Bone Gap; and All American Boys. In this stunning debut novel, Pushcart-nominated author Ibi Zoboi draws on her own experience as a young Haitian immigrant, infusing this lyrical exploration of America with magical realism and vodou culture.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life. But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics
by Margarita Engle (Author) and Rafael López (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Henry Holt and Co. Pub date: March 14, 2017

Musician, botanist, baseball player, pilot―the Latinos featured in this collection come from many different countries and from many different backgrounds. Celebrate their accomplishments and their contributions to a collective history and a community that continues to evolve and thrive today!

Biographical poems include: Aida de Acosta, Arnold Rojas, Baruj Benacerraf, César Chávez, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, Félix Varela, George Meléndez, José Martí, Juan de Miralles, Juana Briones, Julia de Burgos, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Paulina Pedroso, Pura Belpré, Roberto Clemente, Tito Puente, Ynes Mexia, Tomás Rivera

Lucky Broken Girl
by Ruth Behar
Middle grade novel. Nancy Paulsen Books. Pub date: April 11, 2017

In this unforgettable multicultural coming-of-age narrative—based on the author’s childhood in the 1960s—a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed. Ruthie’s plight will intrigue readers, and her powerful story of strength and resilience, full of color, light, and poignancy, will stay with them for a long time.

Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro’s Cuba to New York City. Just when she’s finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English—and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood’s hopscotch queen—a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie’s world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger and she comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
by Pablo Cartaya
Middle grade novel. Viking Books for Young Readers. Pub date: May 16, 2017

Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?

For Arturo, summetime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela’s restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a cute girl who moves into Arturo’s apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn’t notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of José Martí.

Funny and poignant, The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora is the vibrant story of a family, a striking portrait of a town, and one boy’s quest to save both, perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia.

The Education of Margot Sanchez
by Lilliam Rivera
YA novel. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Pub date: February 21, 2017

Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

Things/People Margot Hates:
Mami, for destroying her social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
The supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

The Magic Piñata/La Piñata Mágica
by Ismael Cala (Author) and Yunior Suárez (Illustrator)
Picturebook. HarperCollins Español. Pub date: January 24, 2017

After his successful children's book, Ser Como el Bambu/Be Like The Bamboo, the bestselling author Ismael Cala has once again reached young audiences with The Magic Piñata/La Piñata Mágica.

The story -- which is bilingual and illustrated -- tells the story of Alex, a boy who is about to celebrate his birthday, but has to learn an important lesson about selfishness.

Through its pages, illustrated in full color by Yunior Suárez, The Magic Piñata/La Piñata Mágica draws its young readers into the world of its protagonist, whose parents are preparing a wonderful birthday party with a great big piñata, inviting children from the little town of Tepoztlán where Alex lives, to attend.

During the party, Alex discovers that he must share whatever tumbles out of the piñata with others, and this bothers him. From now on, he decides, he will ask his parents to celebrate his birthday a little differently: with two piñatas, one for his friends and one for him alone.

They Both Die at the End
by Adam Silvera
YA novel. HarperCollins. Pub date: September 5, 2017

When Mateo receives the dreaded call from Death-Cast, informing him that today will be his last, he doesn't know where to begin. Quiet and shy, Mateo is devastated at the thought of leaving behind his hospitalised father, and his best friend and her baby girl. But he knows that he has to make the most of this day, it's his last chance to get out there and make an impression.

Rufus is busy beating up his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend when he gets the call. Having lost his entire family, Rufus is no stranger to Death-Cast. Not that it makes it any easier. With bridges to mend, the police searching for him and the angry new boyfriend on his tail, it's time to run. Isolated and scared, the boys reach out to each other, and what follows is a day of living life to the full. Though neither of them had expected that this would involve falling in love...Another beautiful, heartbreaking and life-affirming book from the brilliant Adam Silvera, author of More Happy Than Not and History Is All You Left Me.

The Rise of the Jumbies
by Tracey Baptiste
Middle grade novel. Algonquin Young Readers. Pub date: September 19, 2017

Corinne LaMer defeated the wicked jumbie Severine months ago, but things haven't exactly gone back to normal in her Caribbean island home. Everyone knows Corinne is half-jumbie, and many of her neighbors treat her with mistrust. When local children begin to go missing, snatched from the beach and vanishing into wells, suspicious eyes turn to Corinne.

To rescue the missing children and clear her own name, Corinne goes deep into the ocean to find Mama D Leau, the dangerous jumbie who rules the sea. But Mama D Leau s help comes with a price. Corinne and her friends Dru, Bouki, and Malik must travel with mermaids across the ocean to the shores of Ghana to fetch a powerful object for Mama D Leau. The only thing more perilous than Corinne s adventures across the sea is the foe that waits for her back home.

With its action-packed storytelling, diverse characters, and inventive twists on Caribbean and West African mythology and fairy tales, The Rise of the Jumbies will appeal to readers of A Snicker of Magic, Crenshaw, and The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

Forest World
by Margarita Engle
Middle grade verse novel. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Pub date: October 2017

From award-winning author Margarita Engle comes a lively middle grade novel in verse that tells the story of a Cuban-American boy who visits his family’s village in Cuba for the first time— and meets a sister he didn’t know he had.

Edver isn’t happy about being shipped off to Cuba to visit the father he barely knows. The island is a place that no one in Miami ever mentions without a sigh, but travel laws have suddenly changed, and now it’s a lot easier for divided families to be reunited. Technology in Cuba hasn’t caught up with the times, though, and Edver is expecting a long, boring summer.

He was NOT expecting to meet a sister he didn’t know he had. Luza is a year older and excited to see her little brother, until she realizes what a spoiled American he is. Looking for something—anything—they might have in common, the siblings sneak onto the Internet, despite it being forbidden in Cuba, and make up a fake butterfly. Maybe now their cryptozoologist mother will come to visit. But their message is intercepted by a dangerous poacher, and suddenly much more than their family is at stake. Edver and Luza have to find a way to overcome their differences to save the Cuban jungle that they both have grown to love.

Rooting for Rafael Rosales
by Kurtis Scaletta
Middle grade novel. Albert Whitman & Company. Pub date: April 25, 2017

Rafael has dreams. Every chance he gets he plays in the street games trying to build his skills, get noticed by scouts, and—someday—play Major League Baseball. Maya has worries. The bees are dying all over the world, and the company her father works for is responsible, making products that harm the environment. Follow Rafael and Maya in a story that shifts back and forth in time and place, from Rafael’s neighborhood in the Dominican Republic to present-day Minnesota, where Maya and her sister are following Rafael’s first year in the minor leagues. In their own ways, Maya and Rafael search for hope, face difficult choices, and learn a secret—the same secret—that forever changes how they see the world.

Who Was Fidel Castro?
by Sarah Fabiny (Author) and Ted Hammond (Illustrator)
Middle grade biography. Grosset & Dunlap. Pub date: August 22, 2017

When Fidel Castro died on November 25, 2016, many people around the world responded with mixed emotions. Learn all about the man who shaped Cuba for more than half a decade.

After overthrowing Fulgencia Batista in 1959, Fidel Castro became the leader of an island country only ninety miles away from Florida. While in power, Castro outlasted ten US presidents and turned the small nation into a one-party state with influence over the entire world. Called a leader by some and a dictator by others, Castro defined not one but several eras in world politics.

Who Was Bob Marley?
by Katie Ellison (Author) and Gregory Copeland (Illustrator)
Middle grade biography. Grosset & Dunlap. Pub date: June 6, 2017

Get Up, Stand Up! for the king of reggae music!

Bob Marley was a reggae superstar who is considered to be one of the most influential musicians of all time. Born in rural Jamaica, this musician and songwriter began his career with his band, The Wailing Wailers, in 1963. The Wailers went on to spread the gospel of reggae music around the globe. Bob's distinctive style and dedication to his Rastafari beliefs became a rallying cry for the poor and disenfranchised the world over and led to a hugely successful solo career. After his death in 1981, Bob Marley became a symbol of Jamaican culture and identity. His greatest-hits album, Legend, remains the best-selling reggae album of all time. Who Was Bob Marley? tells the story of how a man with humble roots became an international icon.

This title in the New York Times best-selling series contains eighty illustrations that help bring the story to life.

Handimals: Animals in Art and Nature
by Silvia Lopez (Author) and Guido Daniele (Illustrator)
Nonfiction picturebook. Christy Ottaviano Books/HenryHolt. Pub date: 2017

Synopsis coming soon.

Tales from the Caribbean
by Trish Cooke (Author)
Middle grade anthology. Puffin Classics. Pub date: 03 August, 2017

A collection of favourite tales gathered from the many different islands of the Caribbean, one of the world's richest sources of traditional storytelling. From the very first Kingfisher to Anansi the Spider Man, these lively retellings full of humour and pathos, are beautifully retold by Trish Cooke.

The book includes endnotes with a glossary, additional information as well as ideas for activities that children can do to explore the stories further.

Plus Don't Miss These Titles from Indie Publishers!

Miguel's Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and his Dream of Don Quixote
by Margarita Engle (Author) and Raúl Colón (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Peachtree Publishers. Pub date: October 2017

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra finds refuge from his difficult childhood by imagining the adventures of a brave but clumsy knight.

This fictionalized first-person biography in verse of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra follows the early years of the child who grows up to pen Don Quixote, the first modern novel. The son of a gambling, vagabond barber-surgeon, Miguel looks to his own imagination for an escape from his family's troubles and finds comfort in his colorful daydreams. At a time when access to books is limited and imaginative books are considered evil, Miguel is inspired by storytellers and wandering actors who perform during festivals. He longs to tell stories of his own. When Miguel is nineteen, four of his poems are published, launching the career of one of the greatest writers in the Spanish language.

Award-winning author Margarita Engle's distinctive picture book depiction of the childhood of the father of the modern novel, told in a series of free verse poems, is enhanced by Raúl Colón's stunning illustrations. Backmatter includes a note from both the author and illustrator as well as additional information on Cervantes and his novel Don Quixote.

Martí's Song for Freedom/Martí y Sus Versos Por La Independencia
by Emma Otheguy (Author) and Beatriz Vidal (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Lee and Low Books. Pub date: April 1, 2017

A bilingual biography of José Martí, who dedicated his life to the promotion of liberty, the abolishment of slavery, political independence for Cuba, and intellectual independence from colonialism for all Latinos. Written in verse with excerpts from Mart's seminal work, Versos Sencillos.

Morning Star Horse / El Caballo Lucero
by Margarita Engle (Author), Alexis Romay (Translator) and Josiah Muster (Illustrator)
Middle grade verse novel. HBE Publishing . Pub date: January 30, 2017

"When Mamacita chose to call me Estrellita, / it was her way of imagining a little bit / of starlight, deep down in that cavern / where only rare streaks of day or night / could reach--now, Lucero and I will be / Morning Star and Little Star, / a lit-from-within racing team!"

A young girl stricken with rickets and her mother face the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, the challenges of a new century and innovative teachers. Dreams realized and dreams crushed exploring the freedoms only a magical horse can offer. Award winning author Margarita Engle brings a tale of history mixed with a touch of fantasy.

Malaika's Winter Carnival
by Nadia L. Hohn (Author) and Irene Luxbacher (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Groundwood Books. Pub date: September 5, 2017.

This follow-up to Malaika's Costume is an uplifting story about immigration, family and community.

An introduction to winter celebrations, and how children can maintain their own traditions while embracing new ones.

Curriculum tie-ins: social studies (family and community traditions).

Galia's Dad Is in a Wheelchair
by James Edward English (Author) and Teddy Keser Mombrun (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Texas Christian University Press. Pub date: January 31, 2017.

Galia is a young girl from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, who likes to ride her bike, dance, and spend time with her father, Gérald, who has muscular dystrophy and has been in a wheelchair since he was a young boy. Despite his disability, Gérald received a master’s degree from Harvard University, served as President Michel Martelly’s Secretary of State with the disability portfolio, and enjoys many of the same activities with his daughter as other dads.

During his five years in public office, Secretary Gérald Oriol Jr. recognized his country’s critical shortage of children’s literature, particularly related to disability, and encouraged his friend and adviser James English to create a children’s book for Haiti, which has an estimated one million persons with disabilities, a number that increased significantly following the 2010 earthquake.

Galia’s Dad Is in a Wheelchair aims to counter negative stereotypes and stigmas surrounding disability and is believed to be the only children’s book on the subject in Haiti available in Creole, French, and English. The book’s positive messages, which promote disability awareness and close parent-child relations, are universal and extend to general readers beyond the small Caribbean island nation.

Teddy Keser Mombrun, a political cartoonist for Haiti’s largest newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, used Haiti’s unique color palette and landscapes to create illustrations for the book.

Starring Carmen!
by Anika Denise (Author) and Lorena Alvarez (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Abrams. Pub date: 01 September, 2017

Synopsis coming soon.

Let's Explore Cuba
by Walt K. Moon (Author)
Nonfiction Picturebook. Lerner Publications. Pub date: 01 January, 2017

There are lots of different places to visit in the world! Have you ever been on an island? What would it be like to live on one? Take a trip to tropical Cuba and learn about the history and culture of this Caribbean country. Full-color photographs and carefully leveled text bring Cuba to life, while age-appropriate critical thinking questions introduce readers to nonfiction. It's almost like being on the beach yourself!


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.

Read More

Playground Tra-la-la

1. Hopscotch

Hopscotch, hopscotch,
up and down, from box to box.
Use a slipper and heave it high;
where it lands don’t step inside.
Hop over the slipper and then,
hop your way to the very end.
Should you finish each square that way,
you will have a winner’s pay.

2. Moral

Let us play some moral.
Inside some squares, bounce a ball.
Roll to the first and then inside,
bounce the ball that number of times.
Bounce your way to the very end
and then start all over again.
Should you complete each trip in style,
take a bow, you’re a winner, child!

3. Marbles

This is a verse filled with marbles,
dozens of balls as small as pebbles.
Draw a circle and that’s the ‘ring.’
Place some marbles and then begin.
Choose your ‘taw’, that’s your piece;
aim it at the marbles, don’t miss!
Pitch until the ring is clear.
If you collected the most, throw your hands in the air!

4. Pick-pick

This is a rhyme about pick-pick.
Gather some pebbles then take your pick!
Toss it in the air and before it lands,
grab as many as you can hold in your hand!
If the stone drops, it’s another’s turn;
if not keep going until the pebbles are done.
Once you are the person with the most stones,
Then guess what my friend? You won!

About the Author

Fidelia Fisher has loved reading and writing since her childhood and always dreamed of one day being a great writer. She is a primary school teacher and the author of the 2016 picturebook, Shaka the Nutmeg Seed, as well as some poetry and short stories. She has been recognized by the Grenada Union of Teachers for her writing. Her inspiration is her son, Kriston, and her love of literacy. She currently lives with her family in the quiet village of Pomme Rose, in the lovely spice isle of Grenada.

Read More

Bougainvillea Girl

Iguana by Merry Phillips

Flowers, get your bougainvillea flowers!
Fresh from me mammy garden!
Pink and orange, purple and white;
what a very lovely sight!
Me special Grenadian flower it is,
growing on me mammy bushes.
She backyard full up ah dese,
a special treat for de honey bees.
See how I nice with me bright pink flowers
blessed by de hot sun and July showers?
Make nice centrepiece for your tables and dem,
to put in your hat or give all you friends!
Bougainvilleas for you?

About the Author

Fidelia Fisher has loved reading and writing since her childhood and always dreamed of one day being a great writer. She is a primary school teacher and the author of the 2016 picturebook, Shaka the Nutmeg Seed, as well as some poetry and short stories. She has been recognized by the Grenada Union of Teachers for her writing. Her inspiration is her son, Kriston, and her love of literacy. She currently lives with her family in the quiet village of Pomme Rose, in the lovely spice isle of Grenada.

About the Illustrator

Merry Phillips has a B.A. in Fine Art from Capital University and an M.A. in Art History and Library Science from Kent State University. She taught art for three years to junior high school students in Nassau, Bahamas and for 27 years she taught art to both elementary and high school students in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and was also a high school and elementary school librarian. She taught watercolour and basic drawing at the University of the Virgin Islands. She owns a small Christmas Ornaments company in St. Thomas. Now retired, she is currently an aspiring children's book author.

Read More

[Featured Illustrators] Jeunanne Alkins

Jeunanne Alkins
Trinidad and Tobago

Jeunanne Alkins' first picturebook project, Ready. SET...HATCH!, merges art, storytelling, and environmental awareness. The book is both written and illustrated by Alkins, and was self-published through her design studio, ESPjr, in 2014. She markets the book toward toddlers but it's a story for all ages.

Hatch is a competitive little leatherback turtle. He and his tiny hatchling brothers and sisters are racing wildly to crack out of their eggs and be first to the sea. Crisis arises as the nearby river breaks its banks, flooding the nest. Narrated by Hatch, this charming story teaches the young turtles a lesson about teamwork - they discover that unless they work together, no one will get out of the crumbling mess!

All of the illustrations were digitally created using Adobe Illustrator. The muted palette of earthy tones centers the natural world and the minimalist imagery makes the turtle world larger-than-life. Alkins shared a bit about her process:

The illustration “Mummy arrived in the Caribbean” uses a turtle’s-eye-view angle to put toddlers in the driver’s seat as the majestic mother leatherback scans the beach. I remember the first time seeing the leatherbacks lay under the glow of the moonlight. It was slow at first but finally one emerged, climbing slowly up the steep beach. As we took our gaze off of her, they started coming out in droves. It was such a surreal experience and we felt like we were in a scene from Jurassic Park. I definitely recommend it for everyone’s bucket list.

In the “Scrambling towards the sea” illustration, readers get right into the action with the mass of turtles racing across the surface of the sand towards the sea. Anyone who has witnessed turtle hatchlings emerging from their nest can attest to the melee depicted in this scene.

With the turn of a page, the “Wait, wait, Nooooo” illustration turns up the drama from zero to one hundred. This is probably my favourite part of the book when I’m doing readings with little kids who are usually on the edge of their seats and wide-eyed. I can’t help feeling really grateful that I am able to hold their attention.  
Mummy arrived in the Caribbean

Scrambling towards the sea

Wait, wait, Nooooo

Thousands of miles

Alkins on what Caribbean children's illustration means to her:

I enjoy the openness of Caribbean children’s illustration - from hand drawn, to collage, to digital, the types of lines, colour palettes, quirkiness and techniques – there are so many different approaches, but once done well, they work. I love that elements of the artist’s voice are reflected in the work.


Jeunanne Alkins is a creative director from Trinidad and Tobago. Her studio (Everything Slight Pepper) accolades include multiple design, ideation and entrepreneurial awards. She is also the author, illustrator and self-publisher of her debut title, Ready. SET...HATCH! Currently she is working with her team on a picturebook called The Most Magnificent which focuses on the built heritage of the Caribbean, and on an adventure-travel cartoon and comic series called Bim and Bam. She is passionate about edutainment and the difference design can make in how children learn.

View more of Jeunanne's work here:


Read More

[Excerpt] Morning Star Horse/El caballo Lucero by Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle is well-known for her historical verse novels for young readers, all of which have garnered her numerous awards. In the wake of the recent US election, she penned a powerful personal essay citing the importance of bridging past and present as her motivation for writing about history. Her realistic fiction works have brought forgotten Cuban heroes like Juan Francisco Manzano and Millo Castro Zaldarriaga back from the margins of memory.

Now, Engle is adding fantasy to her oeuvre. Her forthcoming bilingual middle grade novel, Morning Star Horse/El caballo Lucero, is a historical fantasy about Cuban children at San Diego’s Raja Yoga Academy. In these pages, Engle shines a light on the much overlooked true story of the late-twentieth-century Lomaland Theosophical community which recruited uneducated Cuban children for its experimental school, including the "famous eleven" Cuban child detainees at Ellis Island. Engle, who was born and lives in the United States but spent childhood summers with relatives in Cuba, also draws on her childhood love of horses and folklore. Scheduled for January 2017, the book will be published by HBE Publishing, based in the author's hometown of Clovis, California and described by Engle as an "innovative small publisher." Here is the description from the book's jacket:
"When Mamacita chose to call me Estrellita, / it was her way of imagining a little bit / of starlight, deep down in that cavern / where only rare streaks of day or night / could reach--now, Lucero and I will be / Morning Star and Little Star, / a lit-from-within racing team!"

A young girl stricken with rickets and her mother face the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, the challenges of a new century and innovative teachers. Dreams realized and dreams crushed exploring the freedoms only a magical horse can offer.

Award winning author Margarita Engle brings a tale of history mixed with a touch of fantasy.
Engle is an Anansesem advisory board member and we are thrilled to exclusively share this excerpt from the book's opening.

Morning Star Horse/El caballo Lucero

© HBE Publishing 2017
Translated by Alexis Romany

About the Author

Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of The Surrender Tree, which received the first Newbery Honor ever awarded to a Latino. Her other verse novels have received the PEN USA Award, and multiple Pura Belpré and Américas Awards. Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, is a Pura Belpré winner and YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award finalist. Books for younger children include Drum Dream Girl, The Sky Painter and Mountain Dog. Her 2016 books are Lion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Words, a young adult verse novel about Antonio Chuffat, a hero of the Chinese- African freedom struggle in 19th century Cuba (Atheneum), and Morning Star Horse/El Caballo Lucero, a bilingual, magic realistic middle grade historical verse novel (HBE Publishers). She lives in central California with her husband and his wilderness search and rescue dog.

Read More

[Excerpt] Dancing in the Rain by Lynn Joseph

Back in August, Jamaican independent publisher Blue Banyan Books (formerly Blue Moon Publishing) released Dancing in the Rain, Américas Award winning Trinbagonian author Lynn Joseph's third young adult novel. Here is the publisher's description:
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.
We are pleased to exclusively share this never-before-published excerpt from the novel.

Dancing in the Rain

© Blue Moon Publishing/Blue
Banyan Books 2016


in the beginning...

My mother says she knows exactly who loves her and can place them in numerical order as to how much they love her. On September 11, I have just started second grade and already I miss my first grade teacher, Ms. Simon, who never shouted, never banged her hand on a table and never made me cry - all acts of terror my new teacher, Ms. Feliciano, has committed in the first week of school.

Every day after school, Jared and I wait for Mommy to come home from work. On September 11, we go home early. Jared picks me up from my new classroom and holds my hand all the way home. Jared never holds my hand. Jared doesn’t talk to me at all. He doesn’t turn on the computer. He doesn’t let me turn on the television. He doesn’t do anything but lie on his bottom bunk bed and stare up at the top bunk. When I try to turn on the computer, he shouts at me, “Turn it off.”

“Why?” I ask.

“Mom might call,” is all he says.

Jared never cared about Mommy calling before. It is a constant fight they have. She complains that he’s always on the internet so she cannot get through on the telephone. She asks him to at least wait until she calls to see if we are alright and then he can go on the internet. Jared never listens.

“It’s important,” she tells him, her voice rising when he shrugs his shoulders at her. Her face gets red and she takes deep breaths and then goes to her bedroom and closes the door.

But on September 11, Jared doesn’t turn on the internet to check out his newest Neopet. I sit on the floor next to our bunk beds. I look at Jared and he turns away so I can’t see his face. Something weird is happening. At school, the teachers had been scurrying in the hallways and lining us up to leave a half-day early. Ms. Feliciano had been extra nice and had asked the class if any of us had parents who worked in or near the World Trade Center.

I raised my hand proudly because my mother worked right there. I said that she was a lawyer in a big company and I had visited the tall towers and ridden the elevator up those bridges to the sky many times. Then, I saw the look on Ms. Feliciano’s face. Why was she scrunching up her eyes and frowning? I said my mother worked there - wasn’t that the right answer? She came over and patted my head and then left the room. When she came back, Jared was with her. He’s in the eighth grade. He’s been diagnosed a genius and got to skip third grade. I wished I could skip second grade. But I haven’t been diagnosed anything as yet. Jared told me quietly to get my back pack and come on.

Now, here we are – waiting for something. At least, Jared is waiting for something, so I wait, too.

Except pretty soon, my stomach starts growling and I go into the kitchen to make a peanut butter and grapes sandwich. Jared doesn’t say a word when I smash the grapes between my bread. Usually, he says it’s gross. I say it’s the same thing as putting grape jelly on bread. I just skip the jelly part and go straight for the grapes. He says it’s a baby thing to do. I hate it when he calls me a baby. But I get him back. I tell him I am Mommy’s joy. That’s what she calls me, her joy.

But then Jared always snaps back, “You might be her joy, but I’m her heart.”

He’s right. Mommy calls Jared her ‘heart’ and she calls me her ‘joy’. I’m not sure which is better. Heart or Joy? I mean, you love with your heart, so she really loves Jared. But you’re happy if you feel joy so I make her happy. But not everything you love makes you happy. Sometimes, the person you love the most makes you the saddest. Life is funny and I have a lot to figure out and all this waiting for something to happen is making me hungry, so I eat.




there is sadness...


Mommy does not know it, but Jared loves her best of all. I know because of him not going on the internet on September 11. Mommy cries and cries on the sofa as she listens to her cell phone messages, as if the messages starting at 8:48 a.m. that day sums up her entire life. But it’s the message she didn’t get that means the most.

Mommy doesn’t actually have her cell phone. She lost it on September 11. It disappeared like a lot of other things that day . . . people, buildings, and the stars I used to watch at night with Mommy when we took our walk to the park, which she won’t do anymore.

A week after September 11, Mommy figures out that she can check her cell phone messages from our regular home telephone. She calls the number for a phone that had been obliterated. I learned what ‘obliterated’ meant this week. It means completely destroyed. Like the Towers and Mommy’s cell phone.

Mommy listens to her messages over and over, and then she writes them all down, every word, filling up the blank spaces around her with information to stop her tears. It doesn’t work.

  1. Message received at 8:48 a.m. Her father calling from Sosúa. “Honey, please call me and tell me you’re okay. I’m looking at the News right now. A plane just crashed into your building. I remember when we went to the salsa concert under the stars there. Please call me and let me know you’re okay.”

I can hear the worry even in the written message.

  1. Message received at 8:50 a.m. Mommy’s work friend Alison calling from the office. “Izzy, where are you? We’ve got to get out of the office now. Meet me and Phil at the elevators. Now!”
  2. Message received at 8:53 a.m. Rudy calling from the office.

“Izzy, tell me you’re at Court and not here. Something horrible has happened. We can’t tell but they’re saying we should stay right where we are for now. I don’t think so. We’re leaving. We’re at the stairs by the Women’s bathroom. Meet us there.”

  1. Message received at 9:05 a.m. Mommy’s sister, Sonia, calling from the Republica Dominicana. “Isabella, I am praying for you. I am praying real hard. I know you are fine. I know it.” Auntie Sonia lives in Samana next to the beach and fishes every day. She stands upside down on her head to pray, which she calls meditating. I imagine her standing on her head praying for Mommy.
  2. Message received at 9:09 a.m. Rudy calling from the office. “Izzy, it’s me again. This is not an accident! We’re on the stairs. It’s jammed. We need to get out of here now. Where are you?”
  3. Message received at 9:16 a.m. Grand Pop calling again. “Isabella? Call me back.”
  4. Message received at 9:23 a.m. Mommy’s best friend, Alex. “Isabella, I’m in Philly at a deposition and just saw the News. Please call me and let me know you didn’t go to work today, or you’re having a late tea at the shop on Broadway or you’re in Court at trial . . . or something!”
  5. Message received at 9:37 a.m. Tony Hernandez calling from? “Princessa, I hope you’re okay. I’m worried about you. I know you’re still mad at me, but call me and let me know you’re okay.” Hmmmmm. Who was that? Mommy has secret friends who call her princessa?
  6. Message received at 9:41 a.m. Mr. Sola calling from where? “Isabella, I am asking everyone from the office to call in to my cell phone or home phone as soon as they get out of the building. There are just no words for this. Good luck.” Mommy’s boss. He doesn’t mind if I come into the office on Saturdays with Mommy to help her make copies and staple piles of papers together with Exhibit tabs. I feel something fierce and sad in his words.
  7. Message received at 9:45 a.m. Grand Pop calling back. “Isabella, call me as soon as you can. I am waiting.”
  8. Message received at 9:48 a.m. Daddy calling from the Brooklyn Bridge on his cell phone. “Izzy, call me and let me know where you are. I’m walking over the Bridge. I’ll go get the kids from school as soon as I get home.” Daddy never came to the school to get us. He did not make it to his home where he lives with his new wife until the sun was almost setting. He walked the entire way in his hard, black polished shoes and his feet hurt for a long time but he said that was nothing. Nothing at all.

There were many more messages. Messages with people crying. Messages with people sounding dazed and stuttering, and not making any sense. Messages from all the people who loved Mommy. She has a list. It is numbered and she holds it close to her.

Then, one day, Mommy turns with her eyes full of tears toward Jared and whispers, “Why didn’t you call me?”

Jared stares at her.

“Why didn’t you call me at work, or on my cell, or something? Were you too busy playing on the internet?”

Jared doesn’t answer her. He looks back at her and she looks at him and in between them shimmers a light that wavers up and down trying to catch them both in its rays but it can’t.

I watch them and I want to shout at Mommy that Jared loves her more than everyone on that list because he didn’t even turn on the computer that day. Or the television. Or anything. I want to tell her that Jared had laid on his bunk bed and closed his eyes and turned his face so that I couldn’t see he was crying.

That was the only day Jared hadn’t called me a baby when I made my peanut butter and grapes sandwich. It was the only day he held my hand. It was the day I knew that even though he talked back to Mommy, even though she threw up her hands and yelled at him, even though they seemed as if they were two panthers looking crossways at each other, deep down they loved each other more than anyone else. Jared was Mommy’s heart. But what Mommy didn’t know was that she was Jared’s, too.

And, in the days following September 11, I began to understand that your heart is never wrong. It is only your mind that gets confused. Your heart tells you much more than what your mind is thinking. But Mommy isn’t listening to her heart. She’s keeping lists and crying.

About the Author

Lynn Joseph is the author of ten books for children and young adults including the picturebooks An Island Christmas, Coconut Kind of Day, Jump Up Time: A Trinidad Carnival Story, Flowers in the Sky and Fly Bessie Fly. She has authored two collections of Trinbagonian folklore stories, A Wave in Her Pocket and The Mermaid’s Twin Sister which won the Américas Award for Children & YA Literature in 1994. Her young adult novel, The Color of My Words (HarperCollins, 2000), was named an ALA Notable Children's Book, an International Reading Association Notable Book for a Global Society, a Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, and a Jane Addams Honor Book. It was also awarded the Américas Award for Children & YA Literature in 2000. Her MG/YA novel, Dancing in the Rain, was awarded Third Prize in the 2015 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature 2015. It was named a Kirus Best Book of 2016. Lynn graduated with an M.F.A. in Writing for Children & Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and teaches writing workshops to adults and teenagers.

Read More

[Book Review] Dancing in the Rain by John Lyons

John Lyons (Author), John Lyons (Illustrator)
Peepal Tree Press, 2015
Poetry collection, ages 9 and up

Dancing in the Rain, a collection of poems for children by John Lyons, moves readers through a plethora of sensory details and experiences associated with the world of the child. Through a thematic focus on the art of dancing, which is maintained throughout the entire collection, Lyons presents a series of childhood events and encounters with the Caribbean’s natural and supernatural worlds.

The culture, customs and landscape of Trinidad and Tobago are used as a frame to position the world of the child, but the world of the imagination, as captured through a creative display of sights, sounds, tastes and emotion, can be appreciated by children across the globe.

The poems are organized based on different aspects of Trinbagonian identity and culture, and celebrate and inscribe particular historical traditions and legacies of the Caribbean experience.

The poems can therefore be placed in various categories. There are poems about foods indigenous to Trinidad and/or the Caribbean like the Gru-Gru Bef, the mango, and the sour-tasting hog plum; poems featuring supernatural or mythical figures in Trinbagonian folklore; poems which zoom in on very simple childhood episodes; poems which celebrate the Trinbagonian landscape; poems about animals; and poems about popular cultural events in Trinidad and Tobago, such as Carnival.

By using these focal points, Lyons attempts to insert that which is usually overlooked, unappreciated or barely recognized. By centring these cultural aspects, Lyons offers Caribbean children a moment to experience and celebrate their identities and cultures. At the same time, the situations and emotional texture of each poem encourage the use of the imagination and zoom in on the universal experiences of children from multiple backgrounds. 

The symbolic use of the well-known Trinidadian Carnival, such as in the opening poem ‘Carnival Jumbie’ helps to convey freedom and happiness, and the child’s identity is affirmed through her participation in the event. Through this opening poem, Lyons provides the young reader with important historical details but lightens the burden of this history through the use of humour and the poem’s scintillating dance-invoking rhythm. For example, after evoking important symbols like the silk cotton tree (which invokes the memory of slavery), and the need to acknowledge ancestral spirits, the poem shifts to focus on the Jumbie anxiously anticipating jouvay and “steelban music to breakaway,”

The idea of freedom pervades the collection. In the poem ‘Carnival Dance Lesson’, the self-confident voice of the child persona, who insists that “you can dance like me”, demonstrates the empowerment the child receives through this cultural event in which all children can “have some fun”. Freedom is also effectively characterized by a carefree sense of play which allows the child to both witness and experience the Caribbean landscape, whether through the imagination or by being physically present in this space. The concept of play is strongly present throughout the collection. The poems not only capture the playful trait of the child, but also celebrate it as playing a major role in the child’s experience of freedom.

The very title, Dancing in the Rain, encapsulates the notion of freedom. One of the significant messages Lyons seems to be sending is the idea that the child’s experience of happiness is dependent on how free he is able to feel as he journeys through life. This freedom is largely represented through the childlike sensibility and sense of imagination which run throughout the poems. Rain, which is certainly not typical of Caribbean weather outside of particular rainy seasons, is usually used to signify some kind of sadness or tumult. The child’s perception of rain however, is somewhat different from the adult view of it, and Lyons artfully employs this perception as a kind of blueprint through which to see the world he has constructed. The child’s perspective provides an untainted perspective of the world and establishes an outlook which sees all things as possible.

In the book’s eponymous poem, ‘Dancing in the Rain’, it is the “warm rain” that causes the children to “squeal”, although the rain “stings”. The rain brings turbulence to the natural flow of life: the clothes have to be taken off the line, the “yard cocks” have to seek shelter and the “charcoal black” sky darkens the atmosphere. Yet, the children welcome the opportunity to “pull off [their] clothes” and dance in the rain. The idea of dancing in the rain is therefore a metaphor for finding enjoyment and using movement to produce joy, even in times when the “brightness” of the sun is not present.

Music offers a means of escape from stagnancy or rigidity, and the poems are suffused with a sense of the musical. Music is depicted as being a part of the poetic, but is also seen as an alternative mode of expression which encourages the act and art of dancing, and enables an intermingling of worlds. Melody allows for greater expression and breaks through barriers which words are unable to conquer. In the poem ‘Prankish Gnome’, for example, it is “the music of garden bird” which allows the child to envision the “gnome” in the garden “dancing happily among the stars.”

Lyons consistently presents two main conflicting forces: oppression and freedom. Through the juxtaposition of these two forces, the poet effectively pulls together varied layers of the child’s experience, and the diverse realities that have impacted or shaped the different worlds the child inhabits. At the start of the collection, Lyons establishes this image of freedom through the poem ‘Carnvial Jumbie’ which instantly pulls the reader into the musical world of Trinidad and Tobago’s calypso culture. This poem sets the tone for the collection because it introduces the idea that freedom occurs through movement, through action, and through dance. The calypso tune ─ “Jumbie jump high/Jumbie jump low/Jumbie jumpin to calypso...”─ is easily accessible to the reader through its rhythmic patterns. The alliterative phrases and the short-structured lines help to stimulate the interest of the young reader who finds herself quickly pulled into an irresistible melody.

Calypso, as a distinct musical form inherent in the structure of the poems, becomes a kind of language through which the child is able to communicate with all that is non-human, including ghosts and animals. Its presence helps to induce this sense of the fantastical in poems like ‘Woopsie’ and the ‘Agouti Story’, where the persona is able to connect with the animal and spirit worlds through the influence of the calypso. Literary sound devices such as assonance, onomatopoeia, and alliteration are used to maintain the rhythmic patterns in many of the poems. Various sounds associated with the Caribbean experience are also used to establish a sense of the musical. There are the animal sounds in poems such as ‘The Pig’s Boast’ and ‘Fowl Play’; sounds from the landscape that are created through the “tiptoe” movement “among dry bramble” in ‘Looking for Douennes’; or sounds associated with the imaginary, mythical world when the child persona hears the “nosily”, “rattling” bones of ‘The Climbing Skeleton.’

The motif of movement established in many of the poems is also deeply connected to the presentation of childhood experiences in the journey of the child. Through this motif, Lyons demonstrates the myriad ways in which dancing can be seen as moving: when “yuh…wine wid de riddum”; through the cut-loose movement of the fowl character in the animal, tale-based poem ‘Fowl Play’; through the “prancing” of the “prankish ghosts” in ‘Looking for Douennes’, and through the “candleflies moving about/lighting up and going out” in ‘Tadpole Comets’. Movement as dancing is also apparent in the personification of the willow and the wind in the poem ‘Natural Dancing Partners’ and even the beating heart of the child is described as dancing “wildly” in ‘Agouti Story.’

This motif of movement also appropriately reflects another common trait of the child, which presents itself both mentally and physically – children are always on the move. As is evident in the poem ‘Betty’s Breakfast’, where the child persona poses question after question to her mother regarding the chicken and egg cycle, the mind of the child is always racing with a sense of curiosity. Lyons captures this swift movement through his use of multiple rhythmic patterns. He shifts back and forth between a range of poetic forms, including the couplet, the triplet and the tercet, providing a lively set of rhythmic beats which imitate the fast-paced, fun-loving, adventurous nature of the child. Lyons honours this and other characteristics of childhood by using them as the nucleus for the situations presented.

The poems in Dancing in the Rain seem to be constructed through a set of ideas which centre on three main themes: continuity, sustainability, and inclusivity. A sense of continuity shines through in those poems that have an overt traditional or historical focus, which allows the reader to learn about Trinbagonian and/or Caribbean culture. The child is positioned as the agent of preservation. It is often the child persona, therefore, who not only introduces the various folkloric aspects and legacies of the culture, but who also helps to sustain them through the use of her imagination and his untainted mindset. Children are open to that which is different and that which might not be considered normal, therefore, they are more willing than adults to embrace and pass on the sense of identity presented in the “strange stor[ies]” and “strange music” being offered through the poems.

The idea of sustainability is invoked through the art form of storytelling which the child or animal persona in each poem uses to create and reinforce a sense of identity for both the individual and community. Finally, inclusivity is underlined through the poems’ focus on various forms of existence, including the human, animal and spirit worlds; elements of the physical landscape; and the folkloric presence in Caribbean culture. Continuity, sustainability and inclusivity become outcomes of childlike freedom, and interestingly enough, each of these factors also helps to preserve the freedom of the child and subsequently, the society.

Shortlisted for the CLPE Poetry Award (CLiPPA), this new collection of poems by John Lyons will certainly allow children to discover and affirm their personal and cultural identities as they learn to ‘dance in the rain.’

About the Author

Dr. Aisha Spencer is a lecturer in Language and Literature Education in the School of Education at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, in Kingston, Jamaica. She has lectured in the area of children’s literature, is a Caribbean children’s literature advisor for Lantana Publishing, has worked closely with Caribbean children’s authors over the years and has written articles and reviews on Caribbean children’s texts. She has been teaching language and literature for over eighteen years and is especially passionate about finding innovative material and pedagogy to help children and youth better connect with and enjoy all genres of literature. Her current research projects focus on analysing and evaluating children’s responses to literature in both elementary and secondary institutions across the Caribbean.

Read More

This Month's Books