LETTER: The Importance of Caribbean Junior Literature


Dear Editor,

In the late 1970s to early 1980s there was an effort in the Caribbean to publish adventure novels based on actual events in Caribbean history targeting the 11 – 14 age group.

By the 1990s this effort had petered out and books such as ‘The Young Warriors’ and ‘Sixty-five’ both written by V.S. Reid had disappeared from the shelves of bookstores in the Caribbean because, as the booksellers explained, they used to carry the books but eventually stopped because nobody would buy them.

We in the Caribbean need to understand and appreciate the importance of introducing our children to their history so that they can grow up with an awareness of our heroic ancestors, and adventure novels based on actual events and the lives of real people are an excellent way to do this.

The irony is that in Caribbean history, there is a superabundance of individuals and events that provide suitable material for adventure novels.

Be it the valiant struggles of the Tainos and Kalinago to retain possession of and to survive on the lands of their ancestors, the determined efforts of the maroons to maintain their hard-won freedom or the courageous uprisings of the enslaved Africans seeking to end their servitude.

Children in the developed world grow up on stories of their heroic ancestors and this shapes their perception of who they are.

We owe it to the children of the Caribbean to also shape their self – perception by introducing them to the heroism of their ancestors.

Unfortunately, ‘The Young Warriors’ and ‘Sixty-Five’ are no longer in print and only a few copies are available from sellers of out-of-print books at exorbitant prices.

Caribbean parents could and should make a concerted effort to have these books reprinted by requesting them from bookstores which would in turn pass this information to the publishers (Hodder Education) or alternatively, parents can contact the publishers directly thereby creating a demand for the books.

This approach is entirely feasible, because publishers republish out of print books with high demand all the time.

In this situation, the publisher could ask potential buyers to pre-order the books to reduce their risk or alternatively, given today’s technology, the publishers can sell these books as e-books.

In future, parents should support writers of novels of the genre of ‘Young Warriors’ and ‘Sixty-Five’ by purchasing them if and when they are ever published again.

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  1. I hear you, but it ain’t go happen, cap’n.
    I don’t know who you are, Sir, because your name was not given.
    But here is something about the history aspect of our books. Local research has shown that our children who go to private schools have an aversion to “knowing” things about local history. They seem to think it is bad for their status. So they develop this phony way of speaking and they work hard to befriend their school peers who are from the local gentry. Some even show embarrassment to own their parents who cannot accommodate their “friends” for sleepovers, nor buy a suburban.
    They turn up their noses at local foods and are heard to boast that they have never been there and would not be caught dead in certain places in Antigua. They develop tastes that match their acquired well off friends and that creates a lot of disturbance in their homes.
    Our children are not interested in their own history. It is too populated with poor, black people.
    Our children can’t read (generalization at work) because we do not make books their domain.
    Parents boast about how well their 4 year old can manipulate a cell phone, not about how well they can read.
    As soon as a literature book comes out somebody produces notes to the book. So the children, encouraged by some teachers, read only the notes and have no relationship with the book itself.
    Another thing. We are busy forcing our children to be champs at Mandarin and they can’t even read English. They cannot read Mandarin either so where does that leave them?
    Another thing. It is not the best books that get onto the schools’ reading list. It is who could market their book best, and who is best at illustrating, and who has more contacts with the officials selecting the books for the schools.
    Finally, we are complaining that our children are obese but are still giving the importers licence to bring in destructive foods and snacks, and parents are shoveling these foods into their children’s mouth daily.
    We are sitting them down in front of the TV or shoving the cell phone in their hands instead of a book.
    If you don’t believe this, go to a doctor’s office, or in any waiting room where parents are with their children and see what’s in their hands and what they are viewing. If you say a book, then you are in denial.

  2. The Young warriors is one of my all-time favorite books. Didn’t realize it was out of print. It’s rich with history and culture. It shows that the maroons were not just a bush people. They had a highly developed and organized society. I know people don’t read a lot these days but they have to read something, at least in school.

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