The summer 2023 release of our new book It’ll Be Irie, by Donn Swaby, is fast approaching. It tells the story of a young boy named Raymond who moves from Jamaica to the United States. Raymond is determined to become “more American” and learns as much about American culture as he can. In his attempts to assimilate, he finds his new classmates questioning whether he really is Jamaican or not. Raymond then decides to connect to his culture by baking Jamaican Christmas cake with his family. When he returns to school, he teaches his classmates about Jamaica, and makes friends by staying true to himself! With It’ll Be Irie, Donn Swaby crafts an inspiring story of self acceptance and embracing one’s cultural identity!
In honor of Caribbean-American Heritage Month, we want to recommend some of the picture books that are centered on both the Caribbean and the people from it that came before It’ll Be Irie. These books can teach children to be courageous, embrace their cultures, and strengthen family connections and friendships!
Written by Hannah Carmona, author of Cardinal Rule Press’s own Dazzling Travis, Anita and the Dragons tells the story of Anita, a young girl who lives in the Dominican Republic. Anita has a vivid imagination and sees herself as a princess and her beloved island home as a palace. She is afraid to leave behind her palace and her subjects to go and “fight the dragons,” which are really airplanes that will take her and her family to faraway land. In the end, she faces them head on and prepares for a harrowing journey to a new home. With lyrical writing and lovely pastel illustrations by Anna Kuhna, Anita and the Dragons will give children the courage to confront difficult life changes!
My Day With the Panye tells the story of a young girl named Fallon who lives in the hills above Port-au-Prince, Haiti with her mother. She longs to be just like her: to wrap her hair in the mouchwa style and carry a large woven basket to the market. However, when she actually attempts to do these things, she realizes that they are not as easy as her mother makes them look! My Day with the Panye has themes of preservation of tradition and family connection and is a beautiful celebration of Haitian culture!
This fun and colorful tale tells the story of a young boy, Miguel, who lives in Puerto Rico with his parents, grandparents and beloved pet frog Coquí, who he takes everywhere with him. Things change when he moves with his parents to Puerto Rico and is forced to leave his grandparents and Coquí behind. New York City is at first a foreign and unfamiliar place, but Miguel is comforted when he explores it and finds that he can find little pieces of home anywhere. Coquí in the City was inspired by author/illustrator Nomar Perez’s own childhood, which gives it a personal touch that anyone who has been through a similar experience can relate to.
To Carnival by Baptiste Paul tells the story of Melba, a young girl who is very excited to go to Carnival, a holiday with bright colors, costumes and festivities which celebrates freedom across the Caribbean. Melba has high expectations, but when her journey is interrupted and things don’t go as planned, she has to make the best of it! Relatable and fun, To Carnival educates readers on a bold and vibrant holiday and teaches children how to deal with roadblocks in a productive way!
Author/illustrator Zara Gonzalez Hoang crafts a story of friendship inspired by stories of her father’s youth and her own with A New Kind of Wild. It follows Ren, a young boy from Puerto Rico, and Ava, a native to New York. Ren feels homesick, missing his grandmother’s house surrounded by forest, the wild. Ava loves life in the big city, but it feels dull and uncomfortable to Ren, so she helps him use his imagination, and together they make a new kind of wild. This heartfelt story can help children deal with feelings of homesickness and shows the power of friendship and imagination.
Any of these books would be an excellent read for Caribbean-American Heritage Month. We hope they get the recognition they deserve and get you excited for the release of It’ll Be Irie, available for pre-order!
Here at Cardinal Rule Press, we are happy to help you with resources for your bookstore or library. Get your FREE Gift Guide here!
Mae Wagner is studying history with a minor in English at the University of Michigan. She is an intern at Cardinal Rule Press and enjoys reading and writing in her free time. In the future, she hopes to work in the publishing industry as an editor.