Littletown Secrets by K. Jared Hosein

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

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Published by Potbake Productions in 2013, K. Jared Hosein’s debut novella, Littletown Secrets, explores ideas of loneliness, peer pressure and persecution: decidedly adult themes, distilled through the perspective of young people who know what it means to be marginalized. These children take the stories of their dark, sometimes death-defying encounters to the only person who can be depended upon to keep these fantastical confessions safe: Littletown’s sole secret-keeper. The unnamed narrator listens to these terrifying and mettle-testing tales of revelation, and the more he learns, the more the reader learns about him: but will the reader ever unearth the private motivations that reside in the heart of the secret-keeper himself?

A pair of the author's illustrations depicting crucial moments in two of Littletown Secrets' stories.

A pair of the author’s illustrations depicting crucial moments in two of Littletown Secrets‘ stories.

In many ways, Littletown Secrets recommends itself as an unconventional, emotionally satisfying series of stories. It is sure to appeal to each young reader who enjoys tales that aren’t afraid to swerve off the beaten track. The collection benefits from a blend of magical realism, mild to moderate horror, and no small dose of levity, Adults and younger bibliophiles alike will find resonances with the work on multiple levels: older readers can glimpse shades and hues of the juvenile adventurers they once might have been; children can delight in reading well-rounded characters who perform starring roles in their stories – they rule the narratives, and aren’t subjected to the sideline silences they often endure in adult fiction.

An endearing, morally complex debut publication from a writer of young adult fiction worth monitoring, Littletown Secrets may well spark conversation concerning the natures of good and evil; the difficult process of growing up, and the liberating happiness of slaying one’s personal demons.

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The Adventures of Manti and Andy by Gregory Thompson

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

A Water Cycle Story, the first title in The Adventures of Manti and Andy

A Water Cycle Story, the first title in The Adventures of Manti and Andy

Andy, an inquisitive ant, meets Manti, a knowledgeable praying mantis, and the conversations between the two span educational topics in fun, informative ways, in this, Gregory Thompson’s series of environmentally-aware picture books for children. Vividly and colourfully illustrated by Rachael Frank, each primer investigates one major natural occurrence. In Book One, A Water Cycle Story, Manti explains the inner workings of the water cycle to Andy, showing him how each step that leads up to precipitation is important for the precious drops of water that fall from the sky.

In Book Three, A Food Chain Story, Andy’s nerve-wracking brush with danger in the silky clutches of a spider’s web prompts a chat with Manti on the unforgiving, fascinating nature of the structure of the food chain. Book Four, The Festival of Pollination, sees a reversal of roles, as Andy, usually the appreciative student, enlightens Manti on the importance of pollination. Andy emphasizes why it’s important for Manti not to greedily consume a busy honey bee in the midst of its important pollen transfer onto a passion fruit flower’s stigma. By the story’s end, both creatures have a renewed sense of admiration for the natural wonders of pollination’s crucial role in the plant life cycle.

Books Three and Four in the series, A Food Chain Story and The Festival of Pollination

Books Three and Four in the series, A Food Chain Story and The Festival of Pollination

The dialogue between this unlikely yet appealing duo is always wise and engaging, mixing scientific data with a storytelling style that’s exciting and readable. The books lend themselves wonderfully to being read aloud, each installation in the series deepening the friendship between Andy and Manti, while revealing useful, engaging facts about the environment and its inhabitants.

For more information on the series, visit Manti and Andy’s official website!

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.