Joanne Gail Johnson, the acclaimed Trinidadian author of several children’s story books, including Go Barefoot, The Scottish-Island Girl, Sally’s Way and the picture-book Ibis Stew? Oh No!, all published by Macmillan Caribbean, has released her latest picture-book Pink Carnival.
Set in Trinidad & Tobago, Pink Carnival is about a boy named Small Man (a nickname given to precocious young boys in Trinidad) who goes for a walkabout around the island’s world-famous Queen’s Park Savannah on his dad’s shoulder. It’s the carnival season and the parade of the bands is in full swing near the Savannah, one of the festival’s traditional venues. Thrilled by the lovely pink blossoms of the indigenous pink pouii tree (also called a “rain tree”) growing on the grounds of the Savannah (they also feature prominently in the book) Small Man asks his Dad to buy him a pink hat at a vendor’s stall nearby.
“No. Pink is for girls,” Dad responds. From thereon, Small Man embarks on an ‘I-spy’ game, pointing to every manner of pink among the revelers, including his mother’s pink hair as she joins them in her carnival regalia. His dad is eventually forced to rethink his bias and concede that pink is not just for girls but can look good on anyone and anything. In so doing, the story playfully addresses the issue of gender stereotyping.
Pink Carnival harks back to the popular, award-winning I-Spy series created by children’s author and illustrator, Jean Marzollo, and written in rhythm and rhyme with colourful photographs. The books’ young readers are enticed to find various objects or words in the photos.
Joanne Johnson says Pink Carnival is the realization of a long-cherished dream.
“A long, long, long time ago, before I was a published author, when my childhood love of books was being nourished in Trinidad on the imported imaginings of Dr. Seuss rhyme and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, I knew that I would one day publish children’s books that reflect life in the Caribbean.”
She has launched an independent imprint, Meaningful Books, and Pink Carnival is the first in a planned series. It was self-published through Xlibris. It is available in Trinidad at RIK stores and online via print-on-demand at www.xlibris.com and Amazon.com.
“Meaningful Books leverages the opportunity that print-on-demand offers to take risks in our still grossly under published market. Using picture books as care-giving tools intended to open doors to more meaningful conversations between children and their guardians, the imprint is partnered in Trinidad with a non-governmental organization, Creative Parenting for the New Era,” said Joanne.
The book’s photography is the work of UK-born Carole Anne Ferris, one of Trinidad’s foremost photographers and a skilled illustrator. Set against the glorious backdrop of Trini carnival, the pictures capture the art of costume making and celebrate the cultural uniqueness of the Caribbean.
In addition to being a published author, Joanne Gail Johnson is the series editor of the Macmillan ‘tween’ Island Fiction novella series (available in Trinidad and regionally through RIK Book Stores, online at Amazon and distributed in North America by Interlink). She is also a member of the US-based Society of Children’s Book Writers and the founding Regional Advisor of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Caribbean South Chapter.
She is a gifted storyteller and a sought-after public speaker. She regularly visits public and private schools in Trinidad and other Caribbean islands in collaboration with the National Libraries System of Trinidad. Her work is generously supported by the Trinidad-based NGO, Creative Parenting for the New Era.
Her work in the schools where she tries to inspire and motivate the students to develop a love of reading has made her very popular with the kids. Some of her visits are chronicled on her website Caribbean children.com and feature snapshots of the youngsters visibly enthralled by her storytelling. Always involved in creative projects, Joanne recently completed a play “The Last of the Super Models” for high school theatre studies.
Joan Bishop, a former director of the Trinidad & Tobago National Family Services Unit and the CEO of Creative Parenting for the New Era, praised Joanne’s work.
“We are convinced that Joanne’s focus on nurturing the emotional intelligence of children through her books is a powerful contradiction of the violence many children experience daily in their homes, schools, on the streets and in the media.”
By Joanne’s own admission, Pink Carival’s road to publication was a rough one, fraught with printing and proofreading hitches caused by mishaps on the part of her publisher, Xlibris. Nevertheless, she was not discouraged and did not give up on her dream.
Her decision to launch Meaningful Books, a pioneering new imprint rooted in the realities of Caribbean childhood experiences, is a daring move. Many (if not most) international publishers would have baulked at investing in full-colour picture books set in Trinidad, or for that matter the Caribbean, fearing they would not have international appeal.
Yet the reality is that, more than ever, we live in an interconnected world and we all bleed the same colour. Children the world over (like adults) have similar likes and dislikes, the same hopes and fears, and are subjected to more or less the same physical, emotional and mental stresses, albeit some more drastically than others. Kids will forever be kids, no matter where they are. By virtue of its ability to ignite their curiosity and their innate sense of adventure and wonder, Pink Carnival has the potential to speak to children of all nationalities and races.
For her part, Joanne Johnson has what it takes to get them all excited when she hits the road promoting Pink Carnival – her own cherished baby.
Contact Joanne at firstname.lastname@example.org