The Tale of the Forest Guardians by Ryan James

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Reading The Tale of the Forest Guardians, spending time in its conjured world of myth, where fantasy meets folklore, is the best way for an adult to indulge in a book geared towards younger readers. Written and illustrated by Ryan James, an SCAD-educated Trinidadian who has previously collaborated with prolific children’s literature author Andy Campbell, the book was also part of NALIS’s 2012 First Time Authors Appreciation Programme.

A revisionist tale steeped in tradition, while seeking to reconsider our folklores through fresh eyes, The Tale of the Forest Guardians explores the potential history of two mythical heavyweights: Mama D’Leau, and Papa Bois. The things we understand about these larger-than-life figures needn’t necessarily be set in stone, as stories like James’ remind us. In his tale, the pair are cast as Alston and Naida, two star-crossed, headstrong warrior-hunters from opposing clans, whose passion for each other melds into their fates: that of protecting and upholding the sanctity of Trinidad and Tobago’s forests.

James’ art buoys a narrative already fuelled by great heart: the illustrations seem at once drenched in ancient, tribal symbolism, while hinting to a style that is fresh, forward-minded and crisp. Characters and creatures fairly leap off the page in their desire to be known to the reader; villages and battles rise up in thickly-inked rolling mountains, crossed spears and claimed victories. We can but hope that The Tale of the Forest Guardians is only the first of several creative projects by this talented, ambitious young artist, who dares to not only imagine our mythical origins differently, but to present them to the world in stunning print.

Further information about James’ work can be found at his website and Facebook page.


Children’s Stories from The Bocas Lit Fest 2011

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Cover of Children’s Stories from The Bocas Lit Fest 2011

A tremendously important part of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest revolves around the ways in which the youngest readers are involved. Since the festival’s inception in 2011, one of the most popular and well-attended arms of the program is the KFC Children’s Storytelling series of events. In the run-up to the festival days, storytelling sessions are held at KFC restaurants across the country, including locations in Tobago, Couva, Chaguanas, San Fernando, Point Fortin, Mayaro and Arima. The festival days themselves boast a specific children’s programme that is crammed full of exciting activities, at which local storytellers and entertainers do their best to ensure that the young minds in attendance are endlessly delighted.

This book of sixteen tales is divided into two parts: the first features stories told by youngsters beneath the age of 10, and the second showcases the work of children aged 11 through 15. The titles of some stories are the same, but this is where the similarities stop. Each of the sixteeen fables is equally precious, highlighting the talent, creativity and boundless imagination of our nation’s budding wordsmiths. The entire collection is vividly illustrated by carnival and theatre designer, Clary Salandy. Salandy’s energetic, exuberant art helps bring the stories to life, as boisterous market scenes, animated sea creatures and erupting volcanoes emerge from the printed pages.

A particularly fine example of the flourishing successes that can accompany children’s book publishing in our region, this collection would make a splendid Christmas present for:

  • aspiring young writers, in an effort to ensure them that it’s never too early to have authorly ambitions;
  • young readers eager to hear interesting stories told by a body of their peers;
  • collectors of children’s reading material who wish to expand their Caribbean title range.