By Yolanda T. Marshall
Lawrence Hill is a prominent Canadian novelist famously known for his award-winning title, “The Book of Negroes.” I once read an article in The Star where Hill disclosed his joy of reading and making up bedtime stories for his children. This resonated with me as it reminded me of my dad doing the same, making my bedtime memories some of the best I hold dear. I can never put my hand on what made story time with Dad extra special – maybe it’s the deep tone of his voice or the fact that he appeared like a kid himself whilst reading. Whatever it was, I know it contributed to my cognitive development, built my literacy skills and formed an unbreakable bond with my father. “Beatrice and Croc Harry” is Lawrence Hill’s first middle-grade children’s book.
“Beatrice, a young girl, wakes up alone in a tree house in the forest. How did she arrive in this cozy dwelling, stocked carefully with bookshelves and oatmeal accoutrements? And who has been leaving a trail of clues, composed in delicate purple handwriting? So begins the adventure of a brave and resilient Black girl’s search for identity…” – HarperCollins, 2022.
I encountered Wayne Carnegie on social media, a Jamaican-born artist who is in the process of illustrating the Caribbean picture book “Denver and the Mango Tree.” This book is written by Jodi-Ann Francis, also of Jamaican heritage.
Seeing more Caribbean men writing and illustrating books for children in Canada is refreshing and very much necessary. Wayne has been working as a Surfacing Artist at some of Canada’s leading animation studios for the last ten years. We had a chat about his role as an artist and a father.
How has the role of fatherhood influenced your art?
“I would say fatherhood has a huge influence on my artwork presently. I have a 5-year-old daughter named Olivia, and my goal from 2016 has been to educate her about her Caribbean roots using my illustrations and stories. I’ve also made it my duty to connect with the Caribbean literature community with hopes of collaborating and sharing artwork and stories with kids out there in the diaspora. I create artworks that I feel my daughter could learn from, especially when she sees characters that look and talk like her.”
Here are a few recommended gems for June.
“The Best of Gray” was created by a Ghanian-born father, Derick Asante and his five-year-old daughter Grayson E. A. Asante. “A beautiful piece of art for young readers about self-appreciation and love inspired by the unmeasurable love and bond he shares with his children. Derick is a father of two inspirational children, Grayson & Miles, a husband, a poet, an illustrator and an animator. The author is best known for his first self-publication, “Scriptures from the Sidewalk.” – GrayMiles Publishing Inc. Please visit the author’s site to get your copy and learn more – www.graymilespublishing.com.
“Church Hat” is rhythmically written by Debra Williams and vividly illustrated by Janine Carrington. It is “about a revealing conversation between a young Black boy and his mother when she finds him playing dress-up, trying on her fancy hats. The story captures a parent’s loving guidance and the joy of a child finding emotional safety in being accepted in a home where he knows he belongs.” – Debra Elayne Williams, 2021.
“The Magic Shell” is brilliantly written by Jillian Christmas and illustrated by Diana G. A. Mungaray.
Jillian Christmas is a queer Afro-Canadian writer/poet who focuses on anti-colonial narratives, family, heritage, and identity. “Pigeon Pea has a LOT of questions about their family and ancestors one afternoon. Auntie entrusts them with a magic cowrie shell that whisks Pigeon Pea back in time and across continents to visit with their great-great-great-great-great-great grandmothers and others, including their orisha.” – Flamingo Rampant, 2022.
I wish all the remarkable men in their children’s lives a Happy Father’s Day! June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and it is also the month we commemorate National Indigenous History. Empowerment to all!