Monday, July 12, 2010

Caribbean Children's Book Review#4 CRICKET stories

Now that World Cup football fever has subsided, perhaps we can take a look at another very popular sport in the Caribbeancricket. Not that the West Indies cricket team is doing so well at the moment, but the sport remains popular.

In 2007, the English-speaking Caribbean hosted Cricket World Cup. Matches were played in different islands and a good time was had by all – well nearly all. There were a few unfortunate incidents.

As a lead up to the event Ginn decided to produce reading material, fiction and non-fiction,  for children in their Get Caught Reading imprint,  and my friend and fellow writer, Diane Browne, who was responsible for the fiction section asked me to write two stories for the series. It was an interesting experience for me as this was the first time I was writing for an overseas publisher – working with their editor and illustrator.

Books cover the age range 6-11 years. One of the aims was to “Fire the imagination of reluctant readers, especially the boys in the class.” Diane says that feedback from teachers seems to confirm that this aim has been achieved. Maybe because cricket is still regarded mainly as a ‘manly’ sport, the boys don’t mind reading the stories.

The challenge for me, therefore, was to make sure that the stories featured boys in a way which would engage the readers in  positive interaction - with an appeal both to boys and girls. My stories were The Challenge Match about the rivalry between boys and girls in a grade four class and the cricket match which helped to settle things. The other was Cricket Geeks about four boys who hated sports but were drawn into the sporting world because of  their ‘geekiness’.

Diane Browne wrote most of the stories and they are all delightful – how do a boy and girl twin manage to keep their cool when one bowls for the girls and one bats for the boys at their school match? What to do when your ‘six’ breaks the window of an old grouch?  Can Mickey remain good at bat without the use of his inherited ‘magic bat?’ It’s all about cricket.-  mini versions of the philosophy behind CLR James’ famous cricket book Beyond the Boundary “arguing that what happens inside the "Boundary Line" in cricket affects life beyond it, as well as the converse.“ (quotation slightly adapted by me).

You can get an overview of the series and order books here:

You can click on sample pages to get a feel of the series.
Here’s an extract from It’s a Funny Game

Keep on running
In a game in Australia, the batsman hit the ball high
into the air. The ball landed in a tree. The elders
went to nd a gun to shoot the ball down. The
batsmen scored 286 runs before the ball came down.

This one is a lot of laughs. There’s also a bio of Brian Lara .check it out.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Caribbean Children stories -'Tek Mi! Noh Tek Mi!' Book Review#3

ISBN: 978 976 638 069 4
Pages: 118
Age Group: 10 - 14 years

Publisher: Carlong Publishers(Caribbean) Ltd

Welcome to the world of the fantastic in this collection of ten unusual and exciting Caribbean folktales. Both children and adults will enjoy reading and re-telling these stories with their sometimes very strange characters and events. What would you do if you met so-so head or so-so hand or so-so foot on a lonely country road?  How about the Tata Duende with his feet turned backwards? Or a fish which could give you what you wished for? You won’t be able to put  down this book when you start reading.

-->These stories, traditional and modern, span the CARICOM family of nations: from Belize in Central America to Montserrat in the Eastern Caribbean. The introduction to the folktales by Prof. Maureen Warner-Lewis. is in itself a gem worth reading. She says:

"Magic is a key ingredient of the folktale all over the world, 
 since it is through magic that the real world and the supernatural 
 world can co-exist in the land of the living."   

Expect magic as you read these stories. These folktales depart from the usual Anansi stories of African origin and show derivation from other geographic areas which have contributed to our history and culture. It is in the re-telling that these stories become our own. For example of Ti Jean and Mariquite-ATrue, True Trinidad Fairy Tale by Eintou Springer, Prof Warner-Lewis says:
 "In Europe, many traditional stories end with marriage and with the
 bride and groom living 'happily ever after'. This is the ending
 in this story."

This story also follows the classical patterns of traditional story telling (the fairy tale) with three impossible tasks given to the hero by the king. In carnival country it is not a problem that the country has no king. In any case the king is also the devil. Ti Jean can carry out the tasks only with the magical help of the heroine, Mariquite. But how much more Caribbean can you get than this:

 "Look! Mariquite say, and take out some food from her basket.
  It was good food - cassava and dumpling with fish steam down
  in coconut milk.Ti Jean eat and eat. Then he wash it down with
  a drink of mauby."

Another interesting feature of this folktale is that the French - based patois spoken by some Trinis is interspersed throughout the story.( The accompanying audio CD lets you hear how this sounds)

Some of the stories are set in modern times - there are still ghosts in Guyana, and two are based in history -Caribs, Tainos and Spaniards. Much to enjoy here. Four of the stories are on the accompanying audio CDs

Cherrell Shelley-Robinson -Jamaica
Eintou Pearl Springer -Trinidad and Tobago
Jane Grell - Montserrat
Jean F. Forbes -Jamaica
Michelle M. Petty -Belize
Mohamed Fazloor Yasin - Guyana
Myrna Manzanares -Belize
Nellie Payne  -Grenada

Audio Disc #1
Tek Mi! Noh Tek Mi! Read by Myrna Manzanares (Belize)
Lazy Manny-oh!  Read by Leon South (Jamaica)
Audio Disc #2
Miss Angie Read by Godfrey Rock (Guyana)
Ti Jean and Mariquite read by Eintou Pearl Springer (Trinidad and Tobago)

For a 'gleaner' review see

Carlong contact

 Purchase online
Sangsters Book Stores in Jamaica

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Caribbean Children's Book review #2

The Ring and the Roaring Water by Diane Browne
Published by Diane Browne 2008
Pages 228
ISBN978 976 8203 79 3
Time Mill Adventure Series

Middle Grade reader

This is Diane Browne’s second novel about the adventures of two sisters Vanessa and Kerry Barrett. The girls are on summer holidays with their aunt and uncle in rural Jamaica when the discovery of a long lost ring causes them to go back in time in their uncle’s time machine to discover the truth of how the ring was lost or stolen.
The series is an interesting departure from the norm in children's literature from the Caribbean in that it is fits into the genre of historical sci-fi.
  In the previous book, A Tumbling World, a Time of Fire, the story takes the girls back in time to the terrifying 1907 earthquake which destroyed Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. These stories give accurate historical information in a way which will entertain readers.

In The Ring and the Roaring Water, Vanessa and Kerry meet Ian, a teenager, and his strange family. They are forced to shelter with this family during the disastrous 1951 hurricane Charlie and go out into the night when it seems that this house in past time might get washed away. The tension grows as the girls seem to be in imminent danger from the storm and the fact that they might not be able to return to their own time.

They do find out the uncomfortable truth about the ring, although there is still a problem arising from Time Travel which cannot be solved. The plot intricately interweaves the girls' Time Past and Time Present adventures.

The themes here are family, friendship, trust and loyalty, both in the main plot as well as in the subplot involving the girls’ relationship with the boy, Ian, they meet in the past. 

I particularly liked the development of the characters of the sisters - responsible Vanessa and impulsive younger, Kerry. All the characters in present and past time are well drawn and seem very true to life.

In these stories, Diane Browne has skirted the debate on the use of the creole in children's literature by placing the story in a setting which allows her to use standard Jamaican for the most part. It is quite authentic.  If you are interested in Caribbean children's literature I recommend that you contact Diane to purchase a copy.

This is a five star book. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010


              "In every generation, children's books mirror the society
                from which they arise;    
               children always get the books their parents deserve."
             -Leonard S. Marcus
I met this quotation while browsing. I'm still puzzling on the second part.  Do Caribbean children's books acurately mirror our societies? I teach a writing- for- children course and am very often struck by the fact that, especially for picture books, the students' stories are very generic. They could be set anywhere- as if  the writers are afraid of being condsidered parochial; as if they are afraid of their own society.  Of course, these student exercises are not by any means ready for publication, but these are aspiring writers. What Caribbean children's concerns should we be mirroring in our stories? Given the realities of negative situations in countries like Jamaica, ( I shame to mention how many children have been killed in recent times) what can we write for our children? Realism or escapism?  Is it time for Caribbean superheroes carrying the message that good will always overcome? -and that's not a fairy tale