Thursday, March 5, 2015

Read! Read! Read! - An introduction to Carlong's Sand Pebbles Pleasure Series for children

All books available at Sangsters Book Stores in Jamaica, or online at

The Sand Pebbles Pleasure Series

In 2002, Carlong (well-known text book publisher in Jamaica) decided to start publishing trade books for children. They named it the Sand Pebbles Pleasure Series. I had the honour of being invited to be the series editor and so had a hand in guiding and overseeing the publication of the books.  I have had the pleasure of working with authors who are all passionate about increasing the pool of recreational reading for our children both in Jamaica and in the wider Caribbean. Some of these authors were already published, some not.

Today, there are many more books for children being published in Jamaica, but at the time there were few new ones coming out. Carlong now has eleven titles in the series spread across chapter books, short story collections and novels for children aged 8 to 14 years. Over the years, many of these books have won BIAJ awards. Island Princess in Brooklyn by Diane Browne was shortlisted for the Burt Award in 2014.

Some of you are already aware of the books in the series, but I would like to spend a few minutes introducing our titles to those  who might not be familiar with them.

The recommended ages are merely guides as we know that children's reading competence differs from one child to the next.  In all the books there are illustrations which complement the text. However, since these are not picture books the illustrations are in black and white but nevertheless very engaging.

For the younger readers ages 8 to 10 years, there are the chapter books

1. Jenny and the General by Jean D'Costa

Jenny's pet dog, Monty, is getting old. But when Jenny does not come home from school, he realizes that she is in trouble and goes to rescue her from the mad woman who had kidnapped her. Monty is a pet most children would like to have.

2. Miss Bettina's House by Hazel D. Campbell

Miss Bettina has to leave her animals behind on her little farm. A neighbour is supposed to take care of them, but the animals find that they are on their own and have to protect Miss Bettina's house from a village rascal who wants to take it over. Led by Dog, the indoor animals, Cat and Polly, together with the outdoor animals Cow and her calf, Donkey and Goat have to trick Curry Dan into leaving them alone. First, they decide to 'adopt' a homeless boy, Ernest, who takes care of them. Then they devise a very hilarious plan to scare away Curry Dan. ( When I first wrote this story, Miss Bettina didn’t return. But after I read it at a few schools, all the children wanted her to return, so the story ends with her coming back and being welcomed by all the characters.)

3. Every Little Thing Will be All Right by Diane Browne

Five short stories about children facing and overcoming everyday challenges, like – Delroy who wants to be the world's best batsman, but whose parents can’t afford to buy him a bat. Or Saffiya who wants to be a ballerina and defies the adults who think her body shape is wrong. At the independence celebrations at her school she shocks everybody by dancing a ballet piece. There are other stories here you will enjoy.

For the older children 10 to 12 we have

4. Jojo's Treasure Hunt by Cherrell Shelley Robinson

This is a delightful novel about 12 year old Jojo whose parents are about to lose their home. Jojo remembers our folktale about Spanish jars hidden at the foot of cotton trees. There is a large cotton tree in his neighbourhood and he is determined to find the Spanish jar. But he has to be at the tree at midnight and he is scared, because the folktale says that the treasure is always guarded by the ghost of a slave. Can he do this? Can he visit the tree at midnight, find the treasure and save his family? You have to read this exciting story to find out.

5. Little Island Big Adventures by Maria Roberts Squires

This story comes from another Caribbean island. One of the Grenadines attached to Grenada. You may need to consult your atlas. But you won't need it to follow this story about the adventures of Sara Ann and her best friend Ruben. They get up to a lot of antics in their last year of primary school on their island which is so small, there is only one school, one church, no piped water or electricity and no police station. The culture of this tiny island is intriguing.

6. Freedom Come by Jean Goulbourne

We don’t know much about how Jamaican children lived in the past. These five stories fill in that gap - Children in Port Royal during the buccaneer era; Taino children; children in slavery. These are all lively stories which help to increase our knowledge of what it was like for children in these times.

7. Bernie and the Captain's Ghost by Hazel D. Campbell 

Mystery and Adventure await these six orphan, handicapped children invited to spend their summer holiday in the country by a mysterious person. They meet ghosts, men involved in the transshipment of drugs; get kidnapped, locked away in a cave and  experience other dangerous situations. But in the end, they survive and there is a welcome surprise for them.

For ages 12 to 14

 8. Tek Mi! Noh Tek Mi!

Eight Caribbean authors from Jamaica, Grenada, Belize, Guyana, Monsterrat, Trinidad and Tobago

This book contains 10 exciting and unusual folk tales, traditional and modern, from these Caribbean countries. You'll enjoy reading them and moreso listening to the two accompanying CDs which record four of the stories. There is a very informative introduction to folktales by Professor Maureen Warner-Lewis 

9.  Island Princess in Brooklyn by Diane Browne

Another delightful story from Diane Browne. This time about Princess McQueen who spent her early years living with her beloved grandmother in Jamaica. Then at age 13 she migrated to Brooklyn in the USA to live with her mother whom she barely knew. She has to learn to adjust to living with her mother and stepfather as well as adjust to her new school. She faces many challenges in her new life, but in the end all is well.

10. Forest Fever by Sharon James

This story, set in the island of Dominica during the 70's gives us a very interesting view of the era of the early Rasta movement in that country. We get the action through the eyes of Jerry a seventh grader who goes on a school trip to the forest and their famous Boiling Lake. He gets lost during a sudden storm, and experiences extraordinary events in a Rasta camp in a far mountain region.

Then we come back to the 10 to 12 age range with 

11. Ash the Flash by Hazel Campbell and Nattalie Gordon

Being launched at Kingston Book Festival on Saturday March 7, and about which I won't say much here (I've written on this before and will probably write again) except that it was an interesting experience co-writing this novel with a former student from my writing class. It was fun writing about this boy, Ash, who unexpectedly finds himself able to run faster than Usain Bolt. I know you will have fun reading it also.

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