Awesome Caribbean children’s books for International Literacy Day

Calling all book lovers to go on the adventure of a lifetime for this year’s International Literacy Day.

Recognised by the UN tomorrow (Sept. 8), this year’s Literacy Day, under the theme: Literacy and Multilingualism, calls on countries to embrace “linguistic diversity in education and literacy development”. 

BUZZ partnered with Tanya Batson-Savage, publisher/editor-in-chief of Caribbean publishing house, Blue Banyan Books, to compile a list of delightful children’s books authored by Caribbean writers.

Tanya Batson-Savage, publisher/editor-in-chief of Caribbean publishing house, Blue Banyan Books

Happy weekend reading!

Pumpkin Belly & Other Stories by Tanya Batson-Savage and Staysean Daley

Pumpkin Belly and Other Stories by Jamaican author Tanya Batson-Savage

Pumpkin Belly and Other Stories is a bellyful of adventure! This collection of five tales written in the rich Jamaican folklore tradition and inspired by proverbs and mythical creatures presents wily, admirable heroes to boys and girls today. The young heroes journey to the bottom of a river and into the lair of the mythical River Mumma, encounter a magical guava tree, and of course discovers how water gets into the belly of the pumpkin aka ‘how water walk go a pumpkin belly’. Deft, often whimsical hand-drawn illustrations help to bring these fresh, entertaining stories to life.

All Over Again by A-Dziko Simba Gegele

All Over Again by Jamaican author A-dziko Simba Gegele

All Over Again is the winner of the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean Literature (2014) and was longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Award 2015. It is an enchanting slice of boyhood captured with a bold narrative style that pulls you in. This episodic novel, set in a fictional rural village in Jamaica, masterfully creates the wonderfully turbulent world of a young boy as he moves from childhood to puberty and battles the incessant needs of his shrimp of a little sister, the demands of his father, the high school bully and the local know-it-all Kenny. All Over Again is a story of growth, loss, love and triumph. Rooted in over 30 years of theatre, prose and poetry performance writing, All Over Again is A-dZiko Simba Gegele’s exuberantly humorous debut novel. This coming of age tale has received rave reviews and is as suitable for the young, as well as the young at heart.

Dancing In The Rain by Lynn Joseph

Dancing In The Rain by Trinidadian author Lyn Joseph

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, 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. 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 and was longlisted for the 2017 Dublin International Literary Prize. It was named one of the best books for young readers (2016) by Kirkus Reviews.

My Fishy Stepmom by Shakirah Bourne

My Fishy Stepmom by Barbadian writer and filmmaker, Shakirah Bourne

Josephine Cadogan loooves cricket! The game, her dad and her best friend Ahkai are the only things that make living in the very, very, veeery boring village of Fairy Vale, Barbados manageable. She really wants to play for the school team, but Coach Broomes says only boys are allowed. Josephine knows she can play better than any of the boys in the team, if she could just get a chance. To make matters worse, her father has a new girlfriend. And no one is good enough for Josephine’s dad. Not since her mom died. But
Josephine is very good at keeping women away by setting booby traps to scare them off. No one ever survived her tricks – until Mariss came along.
No matter what anyone else says, Josephine knows there is something ‘fishy’ about Mariss. She is just too perfect. And maybe it’s all the stories about baccoos and douens, and other mythical creatures from Miss Mo, champion fish deboner of Fairy Vale, or maybe it’s all the missing pets, but Josephine begins to suspect there is something downright spooky about Mariss. But will she be able to get to the bottom of the mystery?

Girlcott by Florenz Webbe Maxwell

Girlcott by Bermudan author Florenz Webbe Maxwell

A week ago, Desma Johnson had only two things on her mind – in exactly eight days, she would be sixteen years old and to top it off she was in line for a top scholarship. Life was perfect and nothing would get in the way of her birthday plans. But it’s 1959 and the secret Progressive League has just announced a boycott of all cinemas in Bermuda in order to end segregation. As tensions build Desma becomes increasingly aware of the racial tensions that cast a dire shadow over the island. Neighbours she once thought were friendly and supportive show another side. But Desma must learn that change is never easy, and even when others expect small things from black girls, she has the right to dream big. This historical novel, brings a look at Bermuda beyond the sandy pink beaches. The novel took third prize in the 2016 Burt Award for Caribbean literature.

A Dark Iris by Elizabeth J Jones

A Dark Iris by author Elizabeth J Jones, who was born in the UK and moved to Bermuda in 1973.

It is 1972 and 12-Year-old Rebekah Eve is excited to be on her way to the prestigious Meridian Institute. But Rebekah’s joy is dampened by her parents’ separation. She misses having her father at home and the fun things they did together. Most of all, she dislikes her mother’s new ‘friend’ –
Thomas Forster – who is trying way too hard to win her over. These personal changes take place while her country, goes through dramatic changes of its own, and life gets even more complicated when her new friend John is arrested for the attempted assassination of the Governor.
To cope, Rebekah turns to her art. But her paintings take on new, or rather ‘old’ life, as figures from the past seep in and replace her usual subjects. She is thrust into a whirlwind of emotion as her visions and the resulting paintings unveil wounds of the past that are not buried as deeply as some would like. With help from the mysterious Lady of the Library and her new art tutor Mr. Stowe, Rebekah makes sense of these visions and unearths the truth behind one of Bermuda’s legends. But some truths are difficult for anyone, especially a young girl, to digest. Ultimately, she must learn to trust herself, believe in her talents, and that even a little black girl from a small island, could one day become a famous artist.

Do check out these fantastic Caribbean children’s books and share your feedback.

BUZZ will continue to feature our amazing Caribbean novels – so see you in our #BUZZBookCorner soon.