A report by Alexandra Simon for Caribbean Life.
Introducing the Caribbean Junie B. Jones.
A new book series highlighting childhood in the Caribbean, from the perspective of a young protagonist is aiming to introduce a genre of children’s books for youth of Caribbean descent. “The Adventures of Wyetta,” follows Wyetta — a young and curious St. Lucian school girl with a penchant for mischief. Brooklyn-based author Claudette Charles says the series aims to be the representation severely lacking in modern literature for Caribbean youth. In an effort to locate books about her country to educate her children, she was exposed to a huge absence in Caribbean literature.
“I wrote the books for several reasons, but mostly because when my children were younger I wanted them to know about their culture in St. Lucia,” she said. “Even though they were born in Brooklyn, they didn’t know anything about their culture until I told them.”
But Charles ran into multiple roadblocks in this search. There were educational books, but there were no fiction books about day-to-day life for children. And she saw the gravity of it, when she returned home to also find the same issue.
“When I went to St. Lucia I couldn’t find anything and there were no books for children — everything was written for adults teens and that’s what started me on journey,” she said.
This dead end inspired her to start her own books because of the impact reading about relatable literature will have on children.
“As an educator I’ve really seen how important literature is when its indigenous to the culture of the children reading it because I can see it in their reading comprehension — it is improved when they’re reading about things they are familiar with,” said Charles. “It’s nice to read about other cultures, but when they see children that don’t look like them being princes and princesses, they’ll start to think, ‘This is what I’m supposed to look like.’”
Each book in what will be a 15-volume series is approximately 40–50 pages, and follows Wyetta on a new adventure every time. In it, she travels to carnival, meets mysterious and folkloric people, and even visits famous landmarks and locations in St. Lucia, according to Charles. The end of each book also has a glossary that details English and French creole words.
She created the character of Wyetta loosely based off herself. As a child, Charles says she constantly found herself in trouble with adults for her curious nature — similarly to that of Wyetta.
“She’s feisty and troublesome, and as a kid I was that person,” said Charles. “She’s kind of like me because I liked to explore and didn’t like boundaries or understand dangers.”
Charles says the books not only follow her fearless heroine on different journeys — she paints a picturesque image of St. Lucia.
“There are so many things in these books that I mention because I wanted to highlight gems in St. Lucia and all that it has to offer,” she said.
And despite the series being geared more towards children, she says adults can find themselves attracted to the series and because of the type of memories it livens in all its readers.
“Adults like these books a lot,” she said. “Whenever I do a reading, they get nostalgic. They tell me how they reunited with the messages in the story and how it resonated with them.”
The series can be purchased in digital and print format at wyettastories.com.