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Bringing Values back to Jamaica through Children’s Literature

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.

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 the ‘How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’ Book Series

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 the author Catherine Alexander-McDaniel to learn more about the books and to help raise awareness for this great Jamaican book series, which strikes the perfect balance between enlightening and engaging a child.

How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney Book SeriesJamaican Author

Catherine never yearned to be an author and wasn’t involved in the publishing or literary industries in any way. But she was a hard-working entrepreneur and a wife and a mother of two boys, who had a revelation one day. This idea manifested itself into a book series with a strong message of values and restoring awareness of our actions.

Unlike most authors Catherine has a higher mission for the book series, as she wants to share the messages not only among fellow parents, but also with other social groups and educational facilities. 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 her insider tips on how to do Jamaica like a pro!

Introduce Yourself

“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.”

 

With a Grateful Heart

 

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 artist 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 Storyline – Book 1, 2 and 3

 

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.

 

Liar Liar Pants on Fire Book

 

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.

All three books are on Amazon – hard and soft copy for Kindle / eReaders

Ebooks available on bookfusion.com – a new platform created by Jamaicans in Washington DC

 

Why You and the Children in your life will love the ‘How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’ Book Series

The 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.

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 case and are a fun way to teach children values and 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…

 

Practice What You Preach

 

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

  1. My life consists of coffee – Café Blue all the way!
  2. Football (for the kids) – Big up to Ballaz Academy who not only trains but teaches discipline and values to the children.
  3. Beaches – BoardWalk for a quick trip, Bamboo Blu of recent (I don’t get out half of much as I would like)
  4. Church – Swallowfield Chapel– been going there since I was around 11 years old
  5. 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!

  

Contact ‘How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’

Instagram: howfigrowyuhpickney

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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Looking forward to hearing from you.

Bless up, Jules

Keep the Conversation Going….

What is your favourite book or message, from the’How Fi Grow Yuh Pickney’ Book Series?

Share your experience and join the Comments Below….

 

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‘Anya Goes to Jamaica’ Book Review – Introducing Children to World Travel

‘Anya Goes to Jamaica’ Book Review and Interview – Introducing Children to World Travel

Whilst searching online for children’s books I was drawn to an illustrated image of a beautiful girl with a big pink bow in her hair, standing with her arms outstretched underneath a banner that read ‘Anya goes to Jamaica’. Intrigued I clicked through to the website and discovered that the little girl was the main character in an adventure book based on world travel.

The first book in the series is all about Anya’s trip to Jamaica, which is perfect timing for me as… I live in Jamaica!

Introducing ‘Anya the World Traveler’ Book Series

Thinking this was a great way of introducing my nieces and nephews to where I had moved to, I poured through the mesmerizing illustrations and content on the AWA book series website. I really connected with the book and wanted to share the launch of these interactive, magical and educational journey books with you, so that you are able to share them with the young readers in your life.

Being a blogger I had to get the ‘inside scoop’, so I got in touch with the author Nikko FungChung to ask her in her own words all about ‘Anya goes to Jamaica’ and how she is going about introducing young readers to world travel and different cultures.  After corresponding with Nikko I am even more in love with the books, the principles behind them and how she is taking on the publishing world with a brilliant, beautiful, bright, brown-skinned main character who is known as ‘Anya’, the World Traveler.

 

Why the Children in your life will love the ‘Anya World Traveler’ Book Series …

Introducing children to literature at a young age will enliven their minds to a world of possibilities, and Nikko FungChung captures the essence of childhood discovery in her books. Readers are taken on an adventure through the book discovering the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of each destination, subtly introducing children to different cultures and customs.

I feel that by reading the books, children will be more tolerant and learned about other parts of the world and people who may not necessarily look the same as they do. The main character ‘Anya’ is bright as a button and full of adventure and interacts with both boys and girls in the books, so she will be sure to appeal to both young male and female readers.

Children’s Literature Featuring a Black Main Character

I especially love that our international jet setter ‘Anya’ has brown skin and is of mixed heritage, as she will engage a whole generation of young readers who can identify with a main character that looks more like them. The majority of the children’s picture books feature main characters that are white, which can give a lot of young, aspirational readers a feeling that they are less important, or that what their life experience is secondary and doesn’t matter as much.

 

“I believe that every child no matter what colour their skin is,

deserves to be depicted in literature as the super hero, the achiever,

the adventurer, or anything else their imagination conjures up. “

 

On the flip side having a main character that isn’t white helps to redress the balance for white children too, they get to learn and understand about other ethnicities, becoming more rounded and hopefully becoming more enlightened world citizens too!

In Conclusion, this book is simply beautiful and is a perfect addition to any child’s bookshelf. It’s also ideal if you are planning a trip to Jamaica with young children, why not pack a copy in your hand luggage and read it on the flight to introduce your child to all the wonderful things they will get to experience on their trip to Jamaica!

 

Anya goes to Jamaica souvenir
Anya goes to Jamaica souvenir

Interview with Nikko FungChung Author of Anya’s World Adventures Book Series

Without further notice I would like to introduce you to Nikko FungChung, an amazing mother who was so frustrated at not finding good children’s literature, she started making her own!

Not only a fantastic business woman, Nikko is a social advocate who includes other entrepeneurs on her own personal journey, through collaborations forged and featured in the book series.

The interview includes behind the scenes stuff about Nikko and her family, an introduction to the book series, tips and advice for travelling to Jamaica with young children and an exclusive about which destination Anya will visit in the next book!…..

 

1. Please introduce yourself and your beautiful family….

My name is Nikko FungChung, I am the author and creator of Anya’s World Adventures Children’s Travel Book Series. I am a wife and a mother to three wonderful children; my 4-year-old daughter Anya, 10-year-old son Kenneth and my 5-year-old step-daughter Daijha. My husband Daymean was born and raised in Jamaica, this is where we met. My family is also of Caribbean descent, but my heart has always and will always belong to Jamaica.

This is why it made sense that Jamaica be the first stop in the Anya’s World Adventures Book Series.

 

2. When did you start Anya’s World Adventures and who are the creative forces behind it?

I started writing the stories in 2014, to date I’ve written about 46 countries. With very little knowledge of the publishing world, I spent a year researching different options for distribution, self-publishing, trying to sign with a big publishing house. I decided self-publishing was the route for me, but I needed time to figure out the funding because it is VERY expensive to create, publish and distribute your own book. It’s funny actually because I have a few other businesses that in essence seem more complex than this, but being a self-published author has been the most demanding venture of them all.

In 2016, an investment company, Demography is Not Destiny, took a chance on me and gave me the money I needed to get started. This was the same year that I found my illustrator, Fuuji Takashi, who has been a blessing from day one! She resides in the Philippines and we have never met in person, yet we are so in sync. Fuuji really understands my vision and brings it to life better than I could’ve ever imagined.

 

3. Tell us more about your Company Philosophy, what makes you tick?

Anya’s World Adventures is a complete and fully interactive learning experience for young readers. Each book in the series will introduce them to a new country and culture through the eyes of a child. When I’m writing it’s important to me that everything is factual and accurate while maintaining that story-book feel.

At the end of each book, Anya purchases a souvenir to keep as a reminder of the adventure. Readers can purchase these souvenirs and collect them as they read each book in the series. I’m really big on giving back and supporting other entrepreneurs, so I source these souvenirs from small business owners, craftsman and/or artisans in the subject country.

The learning and adventure continues on the website where readers can join the AWA Club. Membership is free! With the AWA Club, members can practice new languages, try new recipes, access printable activities and much more!

4. What inspired you to create children’s books and the supplementary content on the website?

I wanted to give my children a more accurate and less biased view of the world in comparison to what they are shown on television and movies. I also wanted to give them a way to connect with their roots so they can understand all the different cultures and ethnicities that make them who they are.

I went to the library to get some books for my son so that he could learn about other countries and I realised the only books on the shelves were all facts, no fun! These books certainly weren’t going to keep the interest of my 8-year-old, never mind anyone younger. While it is important to learn about the imports, exports and government structure of foreign lands, I think it’s even more important to learn about the people, culture and lifestyle.

Every book in the Anya’s World Adventures Series is filled with facts, presented in a way that children will understand, allowing them to retain the information while enjoying a fun adventure!

 

Bamboo Bobby and his Brother
The real life Bamboo Bobby and his Brother depicted in the book

 

5. What sort of readers does your book series appeal to and what do you hope they will gain from reading the series?

The language and content of the Anya’s World Adventures Book Series will appeal to children as young as 3 years old and as old 9 years old. It’s been a big hit so far with preschool all the way up to some fifth and sixth grade students. The reach of this book is very broad because the information is interesting and useful and the images capture the attention of early and proficient readers alike.

 

“I hope to make the world a little smaller with this book series.

When you learn about other countries, it broadens your horizons.

Living, learning, working or volunteering abroad all become options.

If we don’t allow our children to weigh out all the possible options,

we are doing them a great disservice and limiting their potential”

I also want the children who read my books to gain a better understanding of how similar we all are regardless of our race or cultural differences. It’s my belief that most of the world’s conflicts are caused by a lack of this type of understanding.

We get so consumed with our own existence and our personal way of life that it’s easy for us to turn a blind eye to something that is happening to a stranger across the globe and sometimes even in our country, because we don’t feel a connection with them.

Distance creates such a huge mental gap that instead of empathising, sympathising and offering assistance to others, we watch the news like it’s just a bad movie and continue with our day. I want to close that gap. I want our children to be a better, more caring generation and that begins with understanding and acceptance of other cultures and people.

 

6. How have you chosen the different destinations for the ‘Anya World Traveler Book Series?

When I first starting writing, I was focusing more on countries that I feel are most misrepresented in mainstream media. It was very important for me to provide a different and well-rounded view of these places.

In regards to release dates I want to do one country from each continent/region and then go back around the globe again and again. I don’t really see a finish line in sight because there is so much to learn and so much more to see and I am really enjoying the process. I think I’m most excited to complete the books about Africa and the Middle East.

7. Do you plan to travel to all the different places featured in the book series and will your children be accompanying you?

Yes, of course! I would love to visit most, if not all with my children – maybe one country a year because we still have to travel home to Jamaica yearly as well. If I can just introduce them to the idea of being citizens of the world and not being afraid to go to new places, then when they get older they can visit anywhere that I could not take them.

In the meantime, I do a lot of reading and research on each country before I write the book. People are also a big resource from me. I love to sit and listen to stories about their childhoods and upbringing so that I can make my stories more accurate and authentic.

Anya at the beach
Visiting the beach illustration from ‘Anya goes to Jamaica’

 

8. Please introduce the main character ‘Anya’ and some of her sidekicks who will be featured in the Anya’s World Adventures book series. How do you hope your readers will relate to them?

Anya is a world traveller! If you meet my daughter, that’s the first thing she will say to you and she has only been to Jamaica, lol (laugh out loud). In the book Anya has a magic globe that takes her on magical adventures all around the world.

The great thing about children is they have great imaginations, so I was able to focus more on Anya and her experience without having to add parents, passports and TSA (Transport Security Administration; they search luggage and passengers) agents into the mix.

In in each country she meets up with a friend – sometimes a boy, sometimes a girl who she will visit. This adds an element of relatability for children because they get to see how another child who looks a lot like them, lives and plays. The friend she visits also has a parent or guardian there which I use to introduce foods, dress, hobbies, crafts or trades and so on.

9. You recently travelled to Jamaica with your young family. What are your top tips for getting to an overseas destination with children in tow?

  • Take a practice trip to somewhere more local. This will get them used to the airport process and plane travel.
  • Pack lots of snacks! Remember that water and juices cannot be carried on, but you can pack as many cookies, fruits and crackers as you’d like. These make for great bargaining tools and distractions.
  • Check EVERYTHING! I tried to be frugal on our first trip to NY (New York) and only checked two bags. It is impossible to get from point A to point B with a toddler and rolling suitcases and your smaller carry-ons.
  • Make sure to pack two extra outfits for children in your carry-on just in case you need to change them or your bags are delayed.
  • If your child has the tendency to get lazy after a two second walk, bring an umbrella stroller (push chair).
  • For international travel, having another adult or even an older child is helpful especially when navigating security and immigration.
  • Explain the trip to them before you go: will there be connecting flights, show them on the calendar what day you will leave/return.
  • Vacation rentals are great because they feel like home, being able to do laundry and cook for yourself is such a luxury when on vacation.

 

Anya loved the beach in Jamaica
Anya loved the beach in Jamaica

 

10. Would you recommend Jamaica as a family friendly destination and why?

Jamaica is an absolute paradise and it has something for everyone! We were travelling “back home” so we spent a lot of time visiting family and hanging out around the house, but we did make a few stops at some tourist destinations. Turtle Rivers and Gardens in Ochi (Ocho Rios) is a must see for all ages! Doctor’s Cave Beach is a great day trip in Montego Bay.

 

11. Which part of the island did you stay in during your family vacation to Jamaica? Where else did you visit?

Portmore is home, but since this was the kids first trip to Jamaica we decided to use a vacation rental in Draxx Hall, St. Ann, right next to Ochi (Ocho Rios). The location was ideal because to our right we had all the tourist attractions and to the left some more homey necessities. We visited family all over – Portmore, Spanish Town, Kingston, New Kingston, Negril, Mobay (Montego Bay), St. Mary etc.

12. Share some of your family highlights of the trip with your children to Jamaica?

Spending time with family was really the best part. I fell in love with Doctors Cave Beach and Turtle Rivers and Gardens (big up our tour guide Odane, he is the best). We actually already booked our next trip to Jamaica for Spring 2017!

13. What were Anya’s and her siblings favourite thing about the trip to Jamaica and why?

I was surprised that they enjoyed the regular, every day stuff much more than the more ‘exciting’ outings. I think they would both live on the beach forever if they could. They didn’t want to leave, I think it was nice for them to see their family and have a better understanding of where they come from. We raise them in a very Jamaican home, but actually going to Jamaica allowed them to connect the dots.

 

Anya enjoying Mango in Jamaica
Anya enjoying Mango in Jamaica

 

14. How about the Jamaican food and culture, what new things did you and the children enjoy trying?

Our children our very well versed in Jamaican cuisine and culture so there were no surprises for them there.

However, both of them spent a lot more time outdoors (versus staring at a computer or tablet as they would in America) and they were so brave – holding birds, climbing waterfalls and chasing lizards, lol (laugh out loud).

 

Anya goes to Jamaica souvenir bracelet and anklet
Anya goes to Jamaica souvenir bracelet and anklet

15. There is the option of collecting souvenirs with the Anya’s World Adventure Book Series, tell us more about that?

This is one of my favorite things about the series. It’s an opportunity for me to make an economic contribution to the country I’m writing about and support and promote entrepreneurship. I research and connect with local craftsman and artisans and I purchase items from them to be sold on AWABookSeries.com

I also feature the business owner on the AWA Club pages and all of my social media platforms. For the Anya Goes to Jamaica book, I was blessed with the opportunity to work with Tena Harrison, owner of Pretty Little Things JA. She handmade about 400 anklets and bracelets for this project and I look forward to working with her again in the near future.

 

16. Where will Anya travel to in the next book and what can we look forward to?

I haven’t revealed this yet so I guess it will be an exclusive for you!

In the next book Anya will be going to India!

The book is due out in March 2017.

 

17. How often do you plan to publish a new adventure book for your readers to enjoy?

I plan to publish a new book in the series once every four months, God willing.

 

18. Where can the ‘Anya’s World Adventure’ book series be purchased and in what formats is it available?

Anya’s World Adventures has been distributed to all major online book retailers in both softcover and hardcover formats. Amazon is probably the most accessible internationally. Barnes & Noble also carries the books as well as a number of smaller bookstores. The books and souvenirs are available at AWABookSeries.com as well.

 

19. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

No, I feel like I may have said too much already! I tend to be pretty long-winded.

20. Please leave your thoughts on the ‘Support Jamaica! Buy Jamaican!’ campaign on the Sweet Jamaica website?

I think this is a great campaign and one that should be more widely supported. Jamaica is an amazingly diverse country with tons of resources and talents. I can’t wait to see what it becomes once it’s full potential is realised.

Bright Parrots in Jamaica

PLEASE NOTE: This post (and website) is written in (UK) English, however any references to the book title, and specifically the word ‘Traveller’ have been written using American English, as is the spelling in the ‘Anya goes to Jamaica’ book and the AWA website. Therefore, you will see the word spelt ‘Traveler’ in some places throughout this post. Rather than being a spelling mistake, it is more out of respect to the author who has written her book in American English.

Join the Anya World Adventure Club!

The fun doesn’t stop here, log on to the website and join the AWA Club! Where your child can get additional free content including downloads, you can share travel stories, watch videos, learn languages, listen to music, receive early access to book releases, discounts and VIP event invites.

Where to purchase Anya World Adventure Book Series Online

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Looking forward to hearing from you.

Bless up, Jules

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Have you read this book, share your experience? What is your favourite book to read when travelling to Jamaica? Join the Comments Below….

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