Saturday, May 16, 2015

Caribbean Literary Culture's Gatekeeping of Caribbean Children's Literature

Artist David Scott's rendition of the Traitor's Gate in London

I recently participated in the Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad. This is one of the premier literary festivals in the Caribbean. They run a children's festival program and I did a writing-and-art workshop with primary school students and also read my children's story and poetry to the children. The children's festival consisted of a range of art and writing workshops, readings by a slim handful of children's authors and oral storytelling. It all went over well with the children and I am sure the children got a lot out of them. However, one cannot help but lament the fact that the same salons, discussion panels, receptions, book launches and press afforded to the Caribbean writers for adult audiences at Bocas Fest weren't afforded to Caribbean children's authors. This seems to have been the protocol throughout five years of Bocas Lit Fests and is largely the case at other regional literary festivals as well.

It speaks to a glaring and long-standing problem with the general attitude toward children's literature in the Caribbean; children's literature is somehow not up for serious discussion. In the Caribbean, children's literature is treated as if it were a literature of no circumstance and no complications. This is reflective of a larger shortcoming of Caribbean societies, namely, Caribbean societies have generally been loath to recognize, examine and theorize childhood as a generational condition and as a multifaceted, historically-contingent social category bound to context, to wit, the broader social, economic and political order. This is evident in the simplistic way children's literature is treated at regional literary festivals, and the lowly place it currently occupies in regional literary culture in general.

In an ironic imitation of the gatekeeping of London publishers who once, from the metropole, controlled the market for Caribbean writing for adults, the very adultist Caribbean literary culture has now settled comfortably into its own gatekeeping traditions whereby its has consistently controlled the public perception of Caribbean children's literature, ensuring that Caribbean children's literature is relegated to the margins of literary consciousness and remains content with its assigned status as a non-serious, inferior, unexamined literature, all of this achieved with little thought on the part of the region's litterati. So thorough has this effortless gatekeeping been that Caribbean children's literature has become a sort of arcane literature that, like an ancient codex, mysteriously remains unknown and unknowable despite the best efforts of the invested few to free it from obscurity.

There is a very real frustration I have often felt whenever I have tried to speak about children's literature. By that I specifically mean starting and having conversations within the region. Once, I was speaking to someone involved in running the children's program at one of the regional literary festivals. I brought up several children's authors and children's illustrators who are key figures in contemporary Caribbean children's literature. To my amazement, the person, a children's literary festival organizer, had not heard of any of them.

"What do you think children's literature is?" I finally asked in a moment of exasperation.

The person then proceeded to quote "Dan the Man in the Van" and English nursery rhymes. Most Caribbean people reading this will remember the "Dan the Man in the Van" rhyme from the Nelson West Indian Readers, those school reading primers with the red covers that were (and are still) a staple of Caribbean children's formal education. Starting in 1921, Cutteridge's West Indian Readers were published by the UK-based Hodder Education Group and Nelson Thornes Ltd. respectively. The Nelson West Indian Readers were products of the metropole created for the colonies; they were mainstays of the colonial British education system. The earlier (pre-1970s) editions were utterly Eurocentric, full of European nursery rhymes and folktales. The Mighty Sparrow famously sang a parodic calypso titled "Dan is the Man (In the Van)" in which he cleverly attacked the Nelson West Readers as a tool of British empire. That calypso is comical, but it also seriously highlights the propensity of the British colonial educational curriculum to maintain colonial hierarchies, and mentally colonize and infantilize the colonial subject. When it comes to children’s literature, this is the status quo that, despite years of independence, many people still seem to be attached to.

I wanted to discuss the important (some of them groundbreaking) works of contemporary Caribbean children's authors like Margarita Engle, Diane Browne, Lynn Joseph, Joel Franz Rosell, Nicholasa Mohr, Alex Goddard, Daniel José Older, Edwidge Danticat (yes, she writes for children and young adults as well), and instead I was faced with an outdated paradigm of children's literature as Eurocentric, colonial school-based literature. In the region, it is true there still seems to be undue attachment to the European model of children's literature.

There is also the corollary widespread phenomenon of reducing Caribbean children's and YA (young adult) literature to school-based literature, i.e., the leveled, decodeable and predictable (all technical terms using by literacy professionals and primary school teaching professionals) reading texts or basal readers, and literature anthologies specifically designed for school use. The high-quality (read: literary fiction like Green Days by the River by Michael Anthony and Crick, Crack Monkey by Merle Hodge) Caribbean tradebooks for children are usually appropriated by the Ministries of Education for use in the secondary school English Language curriculum and frequently become synonymous with school-based literature ipso facto. This reductiveness is dangerous because what it does is train young people to view Caribbean children's/YA literature as compulsory school reading, rather than a literature they read by choice and for enjoyment; they turn to the widely available foreign children's and YA literature for that.

Meanwhile, both the Caribbean genre fiction and commercial fiction/non-fiction/poetry (as distinguished from literary fiction) for children and young adults, as well as the other literary fiction works not adopted for school use, that are traditionally published (as opposed to self-published) as tradebooks/library books or as mass market paperbacks, are left to contend with a kind of invisibility, whether it is under-representation in regional bookstores and at regional literary festivals, or the non-existence of this body of literature in the Caribbean popular imagination. This is astounding when one considers that these traditionally published tradebooks are, in fact, Caribbean children's literature proper.

Thus, another difficulty in discussing children's literature within the region is the fact that one is often faced with a lot of Columbusing. When someone in the Caribbean writes or speaks about Caribbean children's literature, they always seem to be discovering it for the first time as if it hasn't existed all along, and simultaneously and paradoxically proclaiming its non-existence (or more often, its virtual non-existence). In fact, there is a long history of Caribbean writers producing works specifically for children and young people from as early as the 1920s. C. Everard Palmer, Andrew Salkey, Jean D'Costa, Errol Lloyd, Anne Walmsley, Pura Belpré, Christine Kraig, Therese Mills, Victor Stafford Reid, David Makhanlall, Monica Skeete, Al Ramsawack and Philip M. Sherlock were pioneering Caribbean children's authors writing in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Even before that, you had people like Walter Jekyll and Martha Warren Beckwith (both Jamaicans) writing folk stories for children that were published in school reading books (school-based literature was the earliest incarnation of Caribbean literature specifically written for children) in the early 1900s.

Then there is the more recent wave of Caribbean children's authors who published works for children in the 80s, 90s and 2000s (I've already mentioned some above) like Richardo Keens-Douglas, Vashanti Rahaman, Valerie Bloom, John Agard, Grace Nichols, Trish Cooke, Rosa Guy, Rita Phillips Mitchell, Michael Anthony, Peter Laurie, Jean Goulbourne, Merle Hodge, Lynette Comissiong, Colin Bootman, Dennis Ranston, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, Dora Alonso, Sergio Andricain, Grace Hallworth, Joanne Gail Johnson, Jan Carew, James Berry, Hazel Campbell and countless others. These children's authors, who are all traditionally published authors, and some of whom deserve lifetime achievement awards for their contributions to Caribbean children's literature, have not (or rarely have) appeared at any of the regional literary festivals in the English-speaking islands, ostensibly because no one thought to invite them. These children's authors and their work have also been largely (or relatively) ignored in the Caribbean public and academic domains, and when they have been highlighted, they are typically treated in very adultist ways, which is to say, Caribbean discussions of Caribbean works for children, particularly in the Anglophone Caribbean, have tended to engage with traditions of children's literature criticism and theory, and the larger narrative of children's publishing in only the most superficial way.

Just a few of the Caribbean children's and YA books that have won or been shortlisted for international literary awards but that have not been recognized by an Anglophone Caribbean award. The books pictured have won or been shortlisted for the Marguerite de Angeli prize, the Newberry Medal, the Pura Belpré Award, the American Book Award and the Jane Addams Children's Book Award (all prestigious international awards for children's/YA literature).
The fact is, a lot more Caribbean children's and YA literature exists than people tend to believe; just because Caribbean children's and YA books are not readily available and visible in regional bookstores and at regional literary festivals doesn't mean they don't exist or even barely exist.

Here in the Caribbean, we are in a state where most people appear to be desperately ignorant of Caribbean children's literature. Arguably, people are ignorant of literature in general (literary people make up only a small segment of the population after all), but in terms of Caribbean children's literature, they are woefully and desperately so. What I have come to understand is that the average adult on the street (the Caribbean street that is; interestingly, there seems to be more awareness and appreciation of Caribbean children's literature outside of the region) equates Caribbean literature for children with Anansi stories; the current generation of adults and 'old people' came of age when Caribbean societies were still undergoing their transition from oral to written culture and they enjoyed oral tellings of Anansi stories, Ti Jean stories and other Caribbean folktales when they were children. So there is this widespread sentimentality colouring the view of what Caribbean children's literature is. Regional children's literary festival programming has maintained this fixation on the oral children's folk tradition. This seems to suggest that the people running these festivals are no more informed about fifty years of developments in Caribbean children's literature than the layperson on the street.

It's well and fine to honor the folktale tradition that came before; in fact, the title of the Caribbean children's literature ezine I founded, "Anansesem", pays homage to the Anansi tradition. The African philosophy of sankofa we inherited from our African forebearers serves us well enough; we Caribbean people have learnt to look backward and that is good and useful. But really the folktale tradition has lost a lot of its cachet with the upcoming generation. Whether we like it or not, this generation-- the millennials and even more so, Generation Z-- has moved on to new things and if we are to keep up with them and support them in their challenges and growth, we have to move on with them.

Today's Caribbean children and young people are grappling with brave new worlds of childhood and adolescence. Even in rural parts of developing nations like ours, children have access to the Internet, cable television and other kinds of technology. Children and youth today, whether they live in rural or urban areas, on continents or islands, are growing up in an increasingly complex, globalized, digital world. In some ways, the narratives relevant to children and young people's lives will always be the same. In children's literature, you will perhaps always have stories of rebellion against adult authority, coming of age, (although even the way coming of age pans out has changed in this post-911 and post-early 2000s global recession era), magical paracosms and so on. Although there is some continuity in the themes and subject matter of children's stories, the ways in which stories are told and enjoyed has changed.

For example, a whole new literary tradition- young adult literature- was "invented" in the late 1960s as both a response to and reflection of contemporary youth culture, including youth consumer culture. Then there's the post-modern picturebook, a new genre of children's literature that has emerged in the last decade as children's authors/illustrators attempt to capture the meta-narrative, non-linear, highly interactive nature of our post-modern societies. You also have developments like ebooks and audiobooks for young people; the rise of media tie-in for children's and YA books (think film adaptations of children's and YA books); and the emergence of the graphic novel for young readers, all of which are direct responses to, and evidence of, this generation's increasingly multi-modal literacies.

The storytelling itself has also evolved to accommodate and address themes and issues affecting contemporary children's and youth's lives. Sixty years ago, you were hard-pressed to find children's books with lgbtiq characters, dystopian fiction wasn't really something you thought of as relevant for young readers, and there were no children's books addressing cyberbullying because cyberbullying wasn't a phenomenon as yet. But things have changed, society has changed. In developed nations children's literature is regularly used as a springboard for nuanced conversations about what children and young people are dealing with at the current historical moment, and children's literary culture is deeply engaged with speaking toward twenty-first century childhood/youth realities, and the nature of today's world.

On the other hand, the prevailing mindset, in the Caribbean, toward children's literature, has only just begun to scrape the surface of all this complexity and modernity. Much, much more needs to be done to complicate the role of children's literature in Caribbean societies, as well as complicate the way children's literature is treated at regional literary festivals and by regional literary culture in general. We are doing Caribbean children and youth a great disservice by sentimentalizing, trivializing, caricaturing and otherwise sidelining Caribbean literature for young people.

Not to mention the fact that there is (and long has been) great discontent within the children's literature community in the region. I've been having (often seething) conversations, quietly and behind the scenes, with others in the Caribbean children's literature community for years. There is a lot of anger, pain, and exasperation that Caribbean children's authors have been grappling with. This ranges from everything to children's authors feeling slighted or poorly treated by regional literary festivals, to children's authors throwing in the towel because Caribbean bookstores won't sell their books, to children's authors feeling marginalized by Caribbean publishers who generally only publish books for adults (Macmillan Caribbean is the only mainstream publisher that has published Caribbean children's books in any sustained way, but they withdrew from the region in the late 1990s, aside for textbook production, and the children's authors they published in their heyday have fallen by the wayside). So this is not just an issue of serving child and adult (because children's literature is not just for children) readers better; the professional efforts and aspirations of Caribbean children's authors, illustrators, as well as independent children's publishers in the region are also at stake.

I know a Caribbean children's author who has been invited to Bocas Lit Fest several times but has refused to attend. I don't mean a self-published children's author; I mean someone who was signed by a British literary agent (extremely difficult for a children's author from the Caribbean) and whose children's books were published by one of the "Big Five" publishers. This author spoke to me at length and with great indignation about the disrespectful way their work as a children's author has been treated in the Caribbean. As a serious children's writer, this author doesn't want to participate in a children's "literary" festival dominated by oral storytellers, and where there seems to be no distinction between self-published authors and those who have gone about children's writing in a professional way....which is often how regional children's literary events are organized. The author in question also complains about repeatedly being asked to do readings for free and feels children's authors in the Caribbean do not get the same degree of respect and reward as writers for adults in this sense.

Since its inception, the Bocas Lit Fest has invited both traditionally published and self-published children's authors to participate in its children's programme, however one has to question the judgement calls they make in deciding which self-published authors they invite. Upon examination, there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to their selection process. It is not as if they are inviting only the best (by literary standards) self-published children's authors or anything. Also, the distinction between self-published children's authors and traditionally published children's authors is never made clear in their programme. Bocas would never lump traditionally published authors and self-published authors together in their adult writing progamme, because after all, literary festivals cater wholly or mainly to professional (i.e., traditionally published) writers. So why have they done it time and time again with the children's writers? (I am using Bocas Fest as an example, but this has been the standard practice at regional children's literary festivals in general.) I cannot think of any serious children's literature festival that operates this way.

And that is just the thing...children's literary festivals in the Caribbean are not serious. There seems to be no expertise to them, no recognition of literary standards in children's literature, no finger on the pulse of the children's publishing industry, no awareness of the wider world of international children's literature, and no respect for the professionalism of the traditionally published children's author. Thus one can appreciate the position of a traditionally published Caribbean children's author who decides to avoid the regional festivals. The problem is, with so few platforms for children's authors in the region, and so many children's authors choosing or being forced to quietly sit out the regional festivals, all that ends up happening is that Caribbean children's literature continues to be a marginalized, under-supported literature that never quite gets firmly situated in the fold of national and regional literature and conversations surrounding it.

A word on self-publishing. One of the findings of a four year (unpublished) study I conducted is the fact that annually and on average, 75% of Caribbean books for children are self-published. There is a lot of vanity press underlying children's publishing in the region. The self-published children's books are not always horrible, indeed some of them excel in production/design and literary merit. What is troubling is that this self-publishing culture seems to have overshadowed, and in some ways has impeded, the diligent professional efforts and literary contributions of traditionally published children's authors. This is plain when regional literary festivals disproportionately highlight self-published children's books and children's authors at the expense of traditionally published ones.

Professor Cherrell Shelley-Robinson, a pioneering Caribbean children's literature scholar, used to give themed public lectures on Caribbean children's literature at UWI's Mona's campus. This is someone with a PhD in Library Sciences who has done important, significant scholarly research on Caribbean children's literature. Outside of Jamaica, her work is highly underrated. It speaks to a lack of appreciation, in the region, of the fact that children's literature is something for adults, which is to say, the idea that adults can read, think about and study children's literature in ways that are highly involved and engaged with the best intellectual and artistic traditions, has not yet taken root here. Instead, what we have in our Caribbean societies is the infantilization of children, and by extension, of children's literature, as though writing and illustrating books for children and adolescents is something simple and easy. The infantilization of children may sound like a contradiction, but not if you truly understand and respect the nature of children and of childhood. There are a number of people like Dr. Cherrell Shelley-Robinson who could (and should) be invited to speak on panels and host salons at regional literary festivals. Clearly, the regional literary culture has to correct its assumptions about children literature as the sphere of juveniles.

How can we operate better moving forward? Have separate and dedicated sales tables for children's books at regional literary festivals instead of lumping them together with books for adults. Organize festival sessions to maintain a respectful division between traditionally published and self-published children's authors. Invite more traditionally published children's authors AND illustrators to these literary gatherings and afford them the visibility, respect and colloquy of press, discussion panels, salons, receptions and book launches. The regular Burt Award discussion panels at Bocas Lit Fest and Daniel Hahn's (Editor of the latest edition of the Oxford Companion to Children's Literature) salon at the latest installment of the festival were high watermarks in a festival otherwise devoid of this serious discussion of children's and YA literature. The fact that these two sessions were listed in the festival's adult programme rather then its children's programme further demonstrates the regional view of children's literary festivals as minor, unsophisticated events geared solely toward children.

Burt Award discussion panel

Also, bring in more traditionally published children's and young adult authors from the diaspora (along with the ones living here) not just to facilitate workshops with children but to discuss their work with adult audiences and teach craft to aspiring, emerging and upcoming children's authors and illustrators. Set up more award programs like the aforementioned CODE Burt Award (Bocas Fest has underwritten a Canadian-sponsored award, the Burt Award for Caribbean young adult literature, a prize that supports young adult authors all the way through to publication in partnership with publishers located in the region. This is a useful development, and we need more efforts like this across the board); in particular, establish incentives to encourage, support and recognize the role of children's book illustration, which is currently grievously under-supported and under-recognized in the Caribbean. Also, use regional literary festivals to build bridges with children's publishers and children's book prizes outside the Caribbean since there is strong need to leverage Caribbean children's literature to the international children's literature community; not to mention the fact that children's publishers in Toronto, London and New York City are becoming more and more interested in promoting international children's literature, so now is an opportune time to build those bridges.

Nevertheless, it is the Caribbean publishing structure that really needs to check itself. The existence of respected Caribbean and Caribbean-friendly publishers like Allison & Busby, Peepal Tree Press, Peekash Press, and Akashic Books, all of whom only publish literature for adult audiences, has been largely responsible for decades of evolution of the canon of Caribbean literature for adults, these publishers having together published almost every significant Caribbean adult fiction, poetry and nonfiction writer of the past 60 years. Meanwhile Caribbean children's writers have largely been left in the lurch, their literary productivity hampered by the exhausting business of negotiating a publishing world that marginalizes them (even the so-called "diversity children's publishers" in places like the US and the UK have done little to make room for Caribbean children's literature). While they have turned to self-publishing to pick up the slack, the limitations of the self-publishing endeavor in Caribbean children's literature have become apparent. Where are the Margaret Busbys and Jeremy Poyntings of Caribbean children's literature, the people who will with dedication, thrift and enterprise, work to increase the publication, marketing and distribution channels for this market? The region needs to seriously have this long overdue conversation about publishing of Caribbean children's and young adult literature, and regional literary festivals are the best place to foreground the conversation. The literary culture cannot continue to shirk its role in bringing the universe of writing and publishing for children to the forefront of Caribbean literary consciousness.

Overall, what we need are regional and national children's literature festivals (and other efforts) organized with an informed and panoptic view of the Caribbean tradition of writing for children, the same way the adult writing festivals are organized with an informed and panoptic view of the Caribbean tradition of writing for adults.

There is also a need to change the review culture in the Caribbean when it comes to children's books. There is much that is problematic in the way Caribbean children's books are treated by Caribbean reviewers. Caribbean reviewers are more intent on reviewing self-published children's books than traditionally published ones, and often fail to mention in their reviews whether a children's book is self-published or traditionally published; too often reviews demonstrate lack of understanding of something as basic as different children's book formats; and reviews mostly lean toward simplistic summarization. Perhaps most distressing, Caribbean reviews of Caribbean children's books tend to strike a "feel-good", patronizing tone toward children's literature, rather than taking on the task of insightful and informed criticism of children's literature through lenses of genre, craft, oeuvre, literary merit and socio-cultural analysis. The reviewers, who are usually people versed in adult literature (but not children's literature judging from both their reviews and their resumes), unwittingly bring a literary criticism lens suited to books for adults to their reviews of children's books.

Caribbean Beat magazine occasionally does reviews of children's books, but I can tell the person who writes the reviews is not a qualified critic of, or professional reader of, children's literature. No offense to the reviewer of course; this is someone who writes exceedingly well, and who has done a superb job promoting Caribbean literature for adults. At least Caribbean Beat is conscious enough to include children's books in their book reviews; most reviews of Caribbean children's books are done online by bloggers, which seems to indicate that the region's mainstream print publications either consider themselves and their readers above an interest in children's literature, or don't see children's books as candidates for a serious review culture. Just as one can readily accept that there is a particular qualification and literary jurisdiction needed to be a good reviewer of adult political nonfiction for example, it is true that a certain kind of province and professional experience is required to be an adept reviewer of children's literature. What we are in need of in the Caribbean is more people reviewing children's books who read children's books as a matter of course (i.e., diligent readers of children's books who have read a high number of children's books and who are deeply engaged with the sui generis aspects of reading and appreciating works for children), rather than people who have read only a handful of children's books and who don't have the requisite expertise. We need devoted, intentional Caribbean children's literature reviews grounded in solid children's literature scholarship, in knowledge of oeuvre, and in knowledge of genre and writing craft apropos of children's books.

I anticipate someone reading this article and objecting that Caribbean literature for adults faces all of these same problems. Of course, a lot of the challenges children's writers in the region (and even Caribbean children's writers in the diaspora) face are the same ones the writers for adult readers have struggled with for decades. However, when one thinks of the relative paucity (and in some cases, absence) of traditional publishing options, literary prizes, sources of funding, writing residencies, bookseller engagement, and public platforms for Caribbean children's authors and illustrators, compared to what has been afforded to Caribbean writers for adult audiences, it is clear that children's authors and illustrators have indeed been given short shrift. Ultimately though, one should not spend too much time comparing writing for adults and writing for children. Oranges and apples (or perhaps ackee and balata is the more appropriate idiom), after all, cannot be compared. There is a need to put aside some of the lenses of the adult writing world and rather, appreciate that Caribbean children's literature is a very different animal, and the challenges it faces are in many ways, unique.

Now I am not saying all of this to bring anybody down. I have been talking to the person who runs the Bocas Fest children's programme and she is a hard-working, caring, intelligent person. One has to appreciate any effort, on the part of the regional literary festivals, to recognize and include Caribbean writing for children and adolescents. My intention is not to place responsibility on the shoulders of the adult writing community. Examination of the trajectory of Caribbean children's literature reveals that the children's literature community has been its strongest and its literary output greatest when it has "done its own thing", carved out its own niche, and pulled itself up by its own bootstraps independent of the adult writing community. Simply stated, my intention is to bring attention to what is a major, multifaceted problem and to suggest that along with the children's literature community distinguishing itself and establishing its own, separate literary festivals and other initiatives, there also needs to be some meeting of minds and interests between the children's literature community and the currently adultist Caribbean literary scene. Until we acknowledge that Caribbean literary culture (and the regional literary establishment) is adultist and take steps to change that, children's writers in the region and the diaspora will continue to struggle with the worst kind of alterity, the kind that comes with being aliens in their own culture, literary and otherwise.

There is desperate need for innovation in the publishing, distribution and discourse of Caribbean children's literature. More broadly, we need a quantum leap in the way our societies view children and young people; a sociology of childhood must be now constructed and reconstructed to meet with both history and the present; literature and literary culture have a big role to play in this. Most of all, there is a pressing need to upend the superannuated ideas of children's literature currently afflicting the region, so that Caribbean children's literature can overcome its currently demoralized state and achieve parity in efforts to support and advance regional literature.

The purpose of literary festivals, as I understand it, is to bring writers and their work to a larger readership, foster intelligent discussion of literary works and ideas, strengthen the community of writers, and get people to think about the worlds we inhabit. In this light, let's work to make literary festivals serviceable for the region's professional children's book authors, illustrators, publishers, scholars and reviewers, and not just their counterparts in the world of writing for adults.

I lived in the States for a decade. When I lived in Philadelphia, I once went to listen to an illustrious African-American children's author talk to a packed auditorium at the National Museum of American Jewish History about children's literature as a vehicle for social justice, an established thread in the theoretical traditions of both children's literature and social justice pedagogy. The person moderating the talk had a PhD in Early Childhood Education. Also on the panel was the museum curator of a special collection of another renowned children's author's works. The children's author giving the talk had won all the prestigious children's book awards and was officially declared a local hero and cultural icon by the mayor. There was a touring retrospective of the children's author's work, spanning his career, on display at the Central Library and I went to see his picturebook art and literary laurels on display in illuminated glass cases. For months, there were decals of his famous illustrations (the author was better known as a children's book illustrator) on the sides of the city's buses. The children's author gave a series of high-profile public talks, all of which booked up quickly. Anyone wanting to learn more about his books could find considerable scholarship on his works and professional life.

What we don't have in the Caribbean, have never had, and yet certainly would benefit greatly from, is this kind of public ownership, esteeming and recognition of our children's authors/illustrators and our children's literature. It is not a matter of doing things like the Americans do, or copying the British people. It's about respecting, celebrating and preserving something that is a vital, valid and useful part of the region’s evolution, something with firm roots in our intellectual, aesthetic, socio-historical and political-cultural landscapes.

Disclaimer: The blog post above makes no claim with respect to the status of children's literature in the Francophone and Hispanophone Caribbean.