Thu | Oct 29, 2020

Books by Jamaican-Canadian authors inspire children

Published:Friday | November 17, 2017 | 12:00 AMNeil Armstrong
Shakara Andem, author of ‘There Is a God’.
Cynthia Reyes, author of ‘Myrtle the Purple Turtle’.

Two Jamaican-Canadian authors have written new books to inspire children to, in one case, love themselves, and in the other, to believe in the power of faith and prayer.

Shakara Andem, who is an early childhood educator and has a passion for writing, has written There Is a God - illustrated by Garrett Mannings a story that was inspired by events in her life.

Cynthia Reyes, a former journalist and executive producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation who wrote her memoirs, Good Home in 2013 and An Honest House in 2016, has now written a children's book, Myrtle the Purple Turtle, illustrated by Jo Robinson.

Andem's young mother left her when she was a baby, and for years, she stayed in a children's home.

As an adult, she built a life for herself here in Canada and has since learnt that her childhood experience was a process. She now has a close relationship with her mother.

These experiences have taught her the importance of trusting God even in times of adversity.

"My inspiration came totally from where God has taken me from and where I am today," says Andem.

She dedicates the book to her mother, Shirley Phillips, whom she has forgiven and with whom she has reconciled. Andem said that when Phillips read the book for the first time, she cried.

There Is a God is a story about Sasha, a child whose mother couldn't afford to take care of her as a baby, so she ran away. As a result, Sasha was sent to live in a children's home despite her father's desire to have her live with him.

The authorities would not grant him custody which she desperately wanted until they found her mother. A man of faith, her father "prayed that one day, God would help his daughter to return home." Sasha's wish is eventually fulfilled.

Andem said that her father took her from the children's home, and that was when she met him for the first time.

She has a couple of books that she has written, but they haven't been published.

"Being a strong believer of Christ, I think anything that I have to do, it has to bring glory to him. So my choice of bringing this book out is, basically, to acknowledge who God is in my life. I wanted to bring that out first before I continue with any other publication."




Andem's purpose in writing the book is to give hope to others and to teach children the importance of faith and prayer, something that she believes has brought her to where she is today.

When Andem left the children's home, she lived with her grandmother in Eleven Miles, Bull Bay in St Thomas for a short while before they moved to Shooters Hill, Manchester.

She emigrated from there to Canada in 2001, and after studying at Centennial and Humber colleges, is now planning to do her master's.

Myrtle the Purple Turtle is about a turtle who learns to love and accept herself for being different.

"It's also about friendship and inclusion and, believe it or not, it's also quite funny in parts. I wrote this story for younger daughter Lauren when she was four-years-old and was bullied for being different," says Reyes.

In explaining at the back of the book how Myrtle was born, Reyes said: " Nobody likes to feel left out or rejected by others. Unfortunately, it happens to many of us, children and adults alike."

Reyes said that over the following weeks she, alongside her daughters Lauren and Nikisha and husband Hamlin Grange "kept improving the story till we were happy with it".

On her blog, Lauren Reyes-Grange notes that her first childhood memory of school was being bullied by her peers for having a black cabbage patch doll whose name was Quentin.

She was four-years-old and loved the doll until some kids in her class "called him dirty and said they wouldn't play with me if I had Quentin with me. This hurt a lot," she writes.

Her parents caught on when she stopped taking the doll to school, and as a result, her mother wrote the story to highlight the importance of accepting herself.

Myrtle the Purple Turtle is published by Weaverback Press and is dedicated to all the children of the world and those who are children at heart.

The book is already getting great reviews in the UK, where it was released first. It debuted on as the #1 Hot New Release in children's book and #1 in its category.

There Is a God is published by Upon A Star Books.