Featured Illustrators: Laura James

Anna Carries Water is Olive Senior's upcoming picturebook (Tradewind Books, 2014), set in Jamaica, about a girl learning to balance water from the spring on her head. Laura James illustrated Anna Carries Water, her debut work as a children's illustrator. James created the illustrations using acrylic on canvas.

Anna, the youngest of six children, cannot carry water on her head like the rest of her siblings. In the illustration titled "Hurry up Anna!", Anna's sisters and brothers wait while she tries her best to get the coffee can on her head. They are ready to go and she is still trying to balance her can. They don’t think she can do it and they are tired of waiting.

In the illustration, "Home From the Spring", the children walk in a straight line; all except Anna are balancing water on their heads. James confesses: "This is one of my favorite pictures because I was able to show a lot of foliage and a bit of the countryside, and the orange leaf trees that I enjoyed painting. I was also happy to be able to get the Jamaican flag in this one." The illustration, "Oh No, Cows!", shows Anna as she comes face to face with one of Mr. Johnson’s cows; she is very afraid of them and thinks they are out to get her! Of course they are not, and this fear actually helps her to finally balance her water can on her head. Because she is afraid she doesn’t think about it, but puts the can on her head and takes off running!

"Hurry up, Anna!"

Oh no, cows!

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

"I was very delighted to make the illustrations for this book, written by celebrated Jamaican-Canadian author Olive Senior, and set in Jamaica. This was my first time illustrating a children’s picture book, and I worked on the paintings for about a year. I like to use vibrant colors and painting foliage and lush scenes, and interesting animals, so making these pictures for a Caribbean story was great. It is also nice to share the story with children in the States who are unfamiliar with Caribbean scenes and language, explaining what ‘dasheen’ is, etc. Also sharing the struggles of having to fetch water for daily use and talking about water conservation with young children has been a plus."

Home from the Spring

Laura James, a self-taught painter of Antiguan heritage, has been working as a professional artist and illustrator for over twenty years. She has organized many exhibitions and special projects, including initiating a successful crowd-funding campaign to bring culturally relevant religious art to a remote area in Haiti. Ms. James is currently at work on an ongoing series of paintings titled Nannies and Other Mothers where she tells the stories of countless women who leave their families to come to America, UK, or Canada in search of a better life, taking jobs as domestic workers. The Nanny Series – A Postcolonial Reading incorporates a paper and slide presentation around this project and was first presented at the 2nd ISA Forum of Sociology in Buenos Aires, Argentina in August 2012. James work is widely collected and exhibited and her images have been published in numerous publications and media. She lives and works in the Bronx, New York.

View more of Laura's work here:

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About Anansesem

Anansesem is an online magazine of Caribbean children's and young adult literature by adults and children. We strive to bring you the best in news, reviews and creative content from the world of Caribbean children's publishing.
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  1. I had the opportunity to see many of the original works for Anna Carriers Water during a visit to Laura's studio. I was transported into little Anna's world as she struggles to overcome her fears and discover her strengths. A visually pleasing children's story.