A Children’s Book about our Caribbean Culture: Dara, Ms. Mae & The Oil Down

dara and friends - oildown book cover 1 (1)

I have observed that many of our children are not familiar with the trees and fruits of the Caribbean and I strongly believe your book will inspire more interest. However, what needs to be done at the curriculum and culture level to promote greater appreciation for local and regional Caribbean culture? 

The people of the Caribbean are comprised of a rich cultural mosaic, emanating from many different religious and ethnic origins. This cultural diversity is seen as one of the strengths of the Caribbean. The regulation and promotion of cultural education is critical to the development of the education system from pre-school to tertiary level. Learning about one’s culture provides “an opportunity to explore and express feelings, to stimulate creativity and the imagination; to develop visual sensitivity to nature and the environment, and to discover the visual and qualitative world,” as stated in Trinidad & Tobago’s Cultural Policy draft, 2018. There is abundant evidence to support the case of culturally responsive teaching being central to the business of educating children;  its ability to integrate and harness all the elements that are part of the process of learning has been documented.

Food is such an important aspect of our life and culture. What advice do you have for teachers and parents about fostering more interest into the local culinary arts?

There is more of a connection between food and culture than anyone may think. We grow up eating the food of our cultures. It becomes a part of who each of us is. Many of us associate food from our childhood with warm feelings and good memories that ties us to our families, and which holds  special personal value. Food from our family often becomes the comfort food we seek as adults in times of frustration and stress. Traditional cuisine is passed down from one generation to the next, such as making oil down. Food  also operates as an expression of cultural identity. We should embrace our heritage through our culture’s food. It’s important to remember that each dish has a special place in the culture to which it belongs, and is special to those who prepare it. Food is a portal into culture, and it should be treated as such.

From idea to inception how long did it take to write and produce this books and what were some of the challenges and insights as a result.

This book took almost one year to be published. I am big on providing good illustrations for children. I would do the first draft, which took a lot of time for me to decide what I really wanted. Then there is the editing process. I have a full-time job so, finding a balance was critical. The ‘Ideal conditions may never arrive’. A book to publish is a commitment, and I always stay up late at nights and write a few pages before going to bed.  As a writer, I find I am usually at my personal best form late at nights and early in the morning. If you have a full-time job it can be difficult to buckle down on a specific time to write.  I recommend STRONGLY, in order to achieve your writer’s dream,  draw up a personal schedule or timetable, manage your time, and STICK TO IT RELIGIOUSLY. Control your time and manage your commitments properly or else they finish up managing you instead.

What’s next for you in terms of books and how can children be inspired and guided to write their own stories.

I love children’s literature and I would like to continue to contribute worthy stories to the genre. I also want to inspire children to read, write, create, imagine, and dream. This adds to my tag line “We become experts by doing.” There’s a writer in all of us because there’s language in each of us. Have we not all shared the same spark of joy in first learning to write our very own name? Writing is self-discovery and self-expression. We begin with a spark. To inspire a child to write we must reignite that very first wonder and delight, and we must hold the spark steadfast with the intention of kindling a long lasting love of language within the child. Psychology tells us that to inspire another, we must first be inspired. Inspiration is contagious! When you discover the power and process of writing, of how words create language, communication, and stories across generations, then you can always tap into the inspiration, and the ideas you pass along will be born from a place of wonder and delight.


 Paper-Based Bookshop – 10 Nook Avenue, St. Ann’s Port of Spain
Scribbles and Quills – 47 Cacandee Road, Felicity
 Academic Plus – Eastern Main Road, Curepe

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