When we read: Caribbean animals

My friend Fritha who blogs at Tigerlilly Quinn started a fortnightly project dedicated to sharing children’s books we love. I’ve been dying to join in with some Caribbean flavour so here I am. The book I wanted to show you this week is Dawne Allette’s Caribbean Animals.

My mother gave Talitha this book when she was fifteen-months-old. From the start, she’s been fascinated with it. Of course, she is. Animals. It’s your typical alphabet book but its rhythm is distinctly Caribbean as are the animals that feature in its pages.

Ned dances us through twenty-six of the Caribbean’s animals, pausing every now and then to observe a mouse building his “house”. This sweet sub-story seemed ridiculous and out of place to me when I first read the book but it’s highly effective. Talitha is so interested in what the mouse is doing and when he’s ready for bed so is she.

I find it impossible to read this book in a British accent. From page one, I feel like I’m in Trinidad again and my voice reflects it. After all, how can a Trini say “manicou”, “nanny goat” or “zandoli” in anything but a Trini accent? It’s always strange to me how certain subjects call that familiar sound out in me. Memory and music must be share their home in my brain.

I really want Talitha to grow up fully knowing that she is part Trinbagonian. For that matter, I’d like her to feel her roots in Jamaica too since that’s where Laurence’s mother is from. Hopefully, books like this one will bring the Caribbean closer to her, making it culturally and symbolically a second home. Who knows, we could live there some day.

It always amuses me, though, that while she’s growing up reading books about the Caribbean, I grew up reading books rooted in England!

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