‘How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’ Book Series Author Interview
Bringing Values back to Jamaica through Children’s Literature
There is no denying that raising children comes with a fresh set of challenges in the modern age. Brought on by the fall of values, morals and manners in society. With a hearty side order of information overload, care of the Internet and social media.
You can end up feeling that no matter how much ‘broughtupsy’ (good manners) you impress on your child in the home, outside influences are impinging on your child every time they leave your side.
But, what if there was a way to imprint values on your child that they carried with them into adulthood, so that the shift was in society instead?…
Introducing Catherine Alexander-McDaniel
There is a new author that is making a splash on the children’s literary scene who is doing just that with her eye-catching titled ‘How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’ book series.
Fresh from launching the first three books in the series at the end of 2016. I reached out to author Catherine Alexander-McDaniel to learn more about the books and to help raise awareness for this great Jamaican series, which strikes the perfect balance between enlightening and engaging a child.
After finding the time to dedicate herself to this new chapter in her life on leaving her earlier business behind her, Catherine collaborated with some fellow Jamaican creatives and so the thoroughly Jamaican ‘How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’ book series was born.
I caught up with Catherine to discover how her revelation gave her new purpose and she stepped into the world of children’s literature with a series of books.
Plus for good measure I also share Catherine’s insider tips on how to do Jamaica like a pro!
I was born in Montreal, Quebec to two Jamaican parents, we moved back to Jamaica when I was 7 years old and have never wanted to leave.
I met my husband at my first job as a sales rep for his family owned company. We will be married 12 years this year and have 2 boys, aged 11 and 7 years.
It was never an aspiration to be an author, in fact I don’t think I even speak well. ‘How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’ is a message in the form of books that God impressed upon me to write.
What Inspired you to write the ‘How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’ Book Series
As I indicated above, this was not a dream of mine that I was pursuing.
I hurt very much for Jamaica. I love this country, I love the people yet I see how we make excuses for our actions or we don’t even recognise what we are doing because we are too busy and/or consumed with our own lives.
These three scenarios came quite easily to me. In January 2016 the thought came to me, but it wasn’t until after I left my job that I had the time, motivation and dedication to do it.
It was almost as if everything fell into place. I had a past client of mine who created baby books on Amazon – Zunammie Keren, I went to her for direction and she ended up putting the entire series together!
She also was the one who pushed me and set goals so we could have it completed by Dec 2016. So said, so done.
Describe Your Creative Journey
The creatives ones are Krystal Ball the Illustrator and Zunammie Keren the Editor and publisher. I had an idea of what the end result should be, but they are the ones who made it happen.
It was a struggle to find an illustrator locally. I almost gave up. Most ‘illustrators’ turn out to be graphic designers, or local artists who are quite pricey.
I found Krystal on Instagram and reached out to her as I thought her art was beautiful. She also believed in my vision and trusted that I would be a positive representation of the books that bear her name. For that I am grateful.
Tell us About the ‘How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’ Book Series
I started off doing all three books at the same time. My target audience being ages 6 and up.
I wanted them to reflect our culture, so the books don’t necessarily depict the ideal family and each book also has a theme value.
The names used in the books are my closest friends children and my own two boys to which the books are dedicated.
While Liar, Liar Pants on Fire is the book that came out the best, in terms of looks, my favorite is the book dedicated to my boys, Practice What Yuh Preach. It is also a constant reminder to myself :).
Brief Synopsis of the ‘ How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’ Storylines
Book 1 – With A Grateful Heart
Reflects compassion and selflessness
Zachary is from a modest home. His Mom has to work hard to make ends meet. This particular day he is promised a treat for his birthday but Zachary soon forgets there is a limit to what he can spend. As with any young child, his mother has to remind him about the value of money. His greed quickly turns to compassion as he stops and considers another child’s need.
Book 2 – Liar, Liar Pants on Fire
Reflects honesty and humility
Savannah is a well-behaved little girl who is raised by her Uncle and Grandma. She knows that lying is wrong but she is told to do it by her uncle who is her father figure. Luckily her Grandma walks in at the right time to explain that even adults can make mistakes and mislead those who look up to them
Book 3 – Practise What Yuh Preach
Reflects respect and manners
Jacob is the youngest in his family and a bit sheltered from the outside world. He gets to go on the road with his older brother and gets confused when he sees how people interact in the store. After he ‘passes his place’ with the cashier, an elderly lady has to explain to him that he is not to blame as everyone is setting a bad example for him to follow.
How have you Determined the Content for the ‘How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’ Book Series
In my walk as a Christian, I struggle daily with self-improvement and being a good example.
Some days you really want to run away from the kids of just go off on them when you are tired, stressed or just having a bad day. I realised I have to make a conscious decision to curb what I may feel and focus on doing the right thing.
Children learn by example and watch our every move. Children are a reflection of what they see and hear.
Even though we all know this, we seem to have forgotten, or we justify our actions somehow to ourselves. Parenting is a tough job and an endless job. They need guidelines and discipline and they need it delivered in the right way.
My books may be a drop in the bucket but this is my contribution to improving our little island.
Future Goals for the ‘How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’ Book Series
I plan to keep adding to the series as there are so many scenarios I can bring to life in a book.
I am currently asking for support from private companies and foundations to sponsor the local printing of books to distribute to communities.
I would love to be involved in engaging the children and guardians in these communities on values and morals if the sponsors see fit.
I hope to see this series to be as popular as Anansi stories were in past generations.
Where can we Purchase the ‘How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’ Book Series
Hard copies have not yet been printed in Jamaica, but are forthcoming.
*Links updated 13th February 2019*
United Kingdom: All three books are on Amazon.co.uk – hard and soft copy for Kindle / eReaders:
USA / Jamaica: All three books are on Amazon.com – hard and soft copy for Kindle / eReaders:
Ebooks available on bookfusion.com – a new platform created by Jamaicans in Washington DC
Insider Guide to Jamaica – ‘How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’
If you are looking to visit Jamaica, I have tapped Catherine for her insider knowledge on ‘how to do Jamaica like a PRO’!
My Highlights of Living in Jamaica
Jamaica will always be the place I call home.
I realise how much of a 3rd world girl I am when I visit the US and Canada. I love not having too many choices at the supermarket, I love not being consumed by shopping.
I have the same friends today that I met in Grade 5. Some live oceans away but we are still as close as 30 years ago.
I love our language and how colourful we are and how colourful our island is. I enjoy the friendly familiar faces around every corner and cheering up the miserable ones.
Places Fixed on My Jamaican Speed Dial
- My life consists of coffee – Café Blue all the way!
- Football (for the kids) – Big up to Ballaz Academy who not only trains but teaches discipline and values to the children.
- Beaches – BoardWalk for a quick trip, Bamboo Blu of recent (I don’t get out half of much as I would like)
- Church – Swallowfield Chapel– been going there since I was around 11 years old
- Women’s Study groups – Beauty For Ashes – non-denominational care groups
My Favourite Jamaican Foods and Traditions
I do love food of all kinds! I especially love my Wednesday Girls night. We love to go to: Uncorked and Cellar8 – great food and wine!
Conclusion – How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney Book Series
By Sweet Jamaica Jules
The ‘How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’ books teach children the importance of values by creating modern day Jamaican tales, with a good old fashioned message interwoven into the pages.
With colourful illustrations and engaging storyline, both boys and girls will be clamouring to read the books and the ‘hidden’ messages will soak in.
Children’s Literature with Black Main Characters
The ‘How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’ book series is another great advocate for literature featuring a host of main characters that are black and from other mixed ethnicities.
With the illustrations depicting scenes and examples of life in a Caribbean home they are full of appeal and I cannot wait to see how the series progresses.
I really feel these books will make a great addition to any child’s book collection and are a fun way to teach children values, humility and how to be a better person.
With three books already available this Jamaican author shows no sign of slowing down and has big plans for her future publications to create a shift in the dynamics of society.
What is Nature Versus Nuture
The debate of ‘nature versus nuture’ has one that has long been fought among psychologists, physicians and philosophers. Where they consider whether personality traits are inherited and carried down through the generations, or gathered through life experiences both in and out of the home.
Why is this important?
Learning about values and morals works as a code of conduct, or a guide as to how to live your life among others in respect, peace, harmony and compassion.
By instilling values in the younger generation we can hope that they will grow into the men and women of tomorrow who will share the message with their own children. And so the message gets passed on and on…
‘How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’ Links
Disclaimer: All images used with kind permission of ‘How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’, copyright Catherine Alexander-McDaniel
Illustration Credit: Krystal Ball
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