Two Caribbean-focused children’s books to get you through the rest of the summer

Jolly Mon by Jimmy & Savannah Jane Buffett (Harcourt, 32 pages, $17.95)

On a remote island off the Caribbean called Bananaland lives a man whom they call The Jolly Mon, whose sweet and beautiful singing carries throughout the land and brings joy to the people. The beautiful voice and enchanted guitar cannot save the Jolly Mon from pirates, but a dolphin can!

The book is filled with striking, island-style illustrations and a magical and adventurous story. It’s a charming read for the beach. Comes with a musical CD with the author and his daughter reading the book and performing an original score. This Jimmy Buffett is indeed the famous musician known best for his hit “Margaritaville.” Ages 3-7.

A Nest Full of Stars by James Berry (Amistad, 96 pages, $16.89)

This book captures the essence of summer with colorful art inspired by the author’s upbringing in Jamaica. Berry uses beautiful poetry written in what he calls his own “Caribbean Poem” style to depict growing up and being curious about the world as a young person.

It’s a delightful collection of writing, perfect for reading aloud together.

From School Library Journal

Grade 3-6–In his foreword, Berry explains that he was raised in Jamaica and always longed to hear the music of the Caribbean Creole language in poetry. These 60 selections, divided into six broad categories, are simple and spoken in the voice of a child. Most of the poems concern the universal events and emotions of childhood, such as the excitement of a good grade in school or the sounds of a snoring father, and will appeal to young writers and readers. However, the most interesting poems are those that depict island life. For example, from “Everyday Music”: “All a mix together/village sounds make my music/with fighting dogs yelping/birds in trees twittering/a lonely goat bleating/hidden ground doves cooing/hidden mongoose shrieking.” Occasional British words or island lingo may be unfamiliar to youngsters but the terms are defined at the bottom of the pages. Bryan’s bold black-and-white prints appear throughout; they often have a stronger flavor of the Caribbean than the language. These poems are not as evocative as those found in Monica Gunning’s Under the Breadfruit Tree (Boyds Mills, 2003), but Berry’s collection will serve where additional simple poetry is needed.–Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL
From Booklist:

Gr. 2-5. When Berry was growing up in Jamaica, his teachers designated his native Caribbean-Creole speech “Bad Talk.” Happily, such misguided suppression never dampened the writer’s enthusiasm for what he calls the “language sounds” of his childhood, as this collection of 60 poems makes clear. The most accessible speak to such universal themes as the yearning for power, humorously addressed in “The Child Member of Parliament Manifesto”: “Make playtime full time! / Make chocolate cake free!” Periodic footnotes explain words such as ginep (a fruit) and bowler (a pitcher in cricket), but at times young American readers will find Berry’s regional idiom perplexing. All of the poems, though, will hold kids rapt with their sheer musicality–especially if read aloud. They may even inspire children to “do a whispa and a big shout” in their own unique voices. Award-winning artist Bryan provides bold, black-and-white illustrations that allow Berry’s words plenty of room to resonate. Jennifer Mattson

For other suggestions (not Caribbean-focused) go to the original report at

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