12 Caribbean picture books for young children
I remember asking on a Caribbean bloggers group a few years ago for Caribbean book suggestions for young children, especially the preschool bunch. Lots of mentions of Brer Rabbit and Anansi were thrown in but nothing came up that I felt really suited kids under five.
Still, between my mother and I (she always has an eye out for Caribbean books and music, keen for her grandchildren to keep their ties with Trinidad and Tobago) we’ve managed to furnish our playroom with a few.
So, in case you’re looking for something for your own island baby or just fancy something a little different to read to your kids, here we go.
Hatch [pictured above] follows the journey of a baby leatherback turtle called Hatch and his many brothers and sisters, starting off as eggs carried by their mother, then madly scurrying to the ocean and eventually migrating around the world.
It’s a really sweet book that was recommended to me by another Trini blogger living here in the UK, Maria of The Tiger Tales so I asked my brother and my sister-in-law to get it for Ophelia for her first birthday. Both girls have adored it ever since.
Hatch seems particularly aimed at children with Caribbean heritage who’ve ended up elsewhere but I reckon it would be enjoyable for any child. Leatherback turtles are fascinating creatures too.
Belandra’s Day at the Market
Belandra travels from Canada to stay with her grandmother in a tropical island (looks like Trinidad to me). Filled with lovely sketches, it details her visit to the market, a special treat with her grandmother. Laurence finds it a bit long-winded to read (maybe you had to grow up going to a Caribbean market?) but Talitha enjoys it and I can see it being a lovely one for a grandparent to read with a grandchild.
Yohance and the Dinosaurs
What I love about this book is that it’s not about the Caribbean. It’s just clearly set there. The plot isn’t that strong – it’s about a boy who sees dinosaurs in the clouds – but it’s such a pretty book and my own dinosaur-mad four-year-old is keen.
Creepy Crawly Calypso
Oh my, was I excited to find this gem at Artrageous here in Bristol recently! Creepy Crawly Calypso is a Barefoot Books publication and it comes with a CD, with a genuine Caribbean voice singing a playful calypso counting bugs playing instruments you might find in a full steel band.
My mum was with me and she was equally excited to discover it so bought the girls a copy and one for her students back home. After the rhyme/song, there are a few pages giving some facts about the different bugs and instruments. We haven’t managed to learn the calypso yet but both girls love dancing to it.
Shak Shak Tree
Following a British child from England to his mother’s homeland Barbados to visit family. He discovers lots that’s new and scary about this island, both familiar and strange, but it’s balance with much fun, excitement and beauty. I’ve been able to relate this to our visit to Trinidad and Tobago last year. Depending on her mood, Talitha will either remember the beaches or the mosquitoes!
I found this in the suggested reading of an EYFS curriculum unit on Caribbean Carnival. Truth be told it is so silly (which is great for the kids even if it makes me roll my eyes a little!) and the illustrations are nothing fancy. BUT the limericks are super catchy and it’s an often requested read. This book is great for learning the names of some Caribbean countries and definitely packs a punch in terms of little kid humour.
Jump Up Time
Jump Up Time tells the story of a preschool girl who feels envious that her big sister is “playing mas” for the first time this year. She feels left out with the family fully focused on making the hummingbird costume the older girl will wear for Carnival.
It gives a good feel for kiddies Carnival in Trinidad, where it’s set. So it’s particularly suited to introducing the festival. Talitha is mesmerised, asking for it again and again.
I’ve written about this one in this post:
“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’m not that keen on the cartoon style of these illustrations, however, it’s a fun rhyming book that gives a mouth-watering introduction to Trinbagonian food and dialect. I really enjoy reading it to my kids and they love listening to it. Talitha asks lots of questions about each dish. I really need to cook more of them.
This is such a silly but fun chant, counting down as the coconut man sells all his coconuts. I find it killing that Talitha always asks: “But why do they call the man ‘mon’?”
This is such a beautiful book. Featuring captivating paintings of Caribbean scenes, it’s gentle poem is a lovely wind down before bed. I get nostalgic reading it but it holds my children’s attentions equally.
This is a baby touch and feel book, pulling out images of Caribbean life. I reckon this would be such a lovely gift for any baby but even more so if there’s a Caribbean connection. It’s particularly aimed at Caribbean babies overseas, since it ends with a mirror and reads, “So much to do, so much to see. All that’s missing is me.”
Do you have any other Caribbean picture books to add to this collection? Please do share them if you do!