Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Seaside Dream

On Thursday night, my kids and I went to "meet a local." Janet Costa Bates, who grew up in the next town, read her debut picture book Seaside Dream at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. She also included the process she went through in making the book and a question and answer session at the end. My favorite Indie bookstore, Baker Books, was on hand to sell copies of the book to have signed after the reading.

Seaside Dream explores universal themes:  love between a grandmother and granddaughter, choosing just the right birthday gift, and longing for relatives far away.

I saw smiles of recognition on the faces of the Cape Verdeans in the audience when Janet read about the food that overflows at Cape Verdean celebrations. They laughed heartily when two characters in the book argued over the proper name of a stew they would soon eat.

"That's good kachupa, no?" he said.
"It's MUNchupa," Aunt Celia said of the stew.
"On my island we call it kachupa," insisted Uncle Manny.
"Well," said Aunt Celia. "You come from the wrong island!" Then they both laughed.

After the reading, the woman in front of me asked, "Do you know what Kachupa is?"

I told her I didn't know but understood the joke between the characters. "One island calls it kachupa the other calls it manchupa."

She looked right at me, patted my arm and said, "It's really called KAchupa!" We shared a good laugh.

I'm certain I would have gotten a different answer if I had asked a different person in the audience what it's really called.

As I mentioned in earlier posts (here and here), I believe there are too few children's books featuring people outside of the dominant (white) culture.   Some have disagreed with that idea saying the majority of people in this country are white, so of course most books feature white characters. I believe the issue is far more significant and nuanced than that. I believe every child should be able to see himself or herself in the pages of a book.

Based upon the reaction in the auditorium Thursday night, I know the Cape Verdeans in the room saw themselves in the pages of a book, perhaps for the first time. I know that my caucasian children saw themselves, too, for they also share a close and loving bond with their grandmothers and have relatives far away.

When we got home my son said, "That was fun!"

I hope you'll check out Janet's book. (Full disclosure: I did not meet Janet until that night. I saw the reading advertised and went. I receive no compensation for this post).

A related bit of information: The New Bedford Whaling Museum will open it's permanent Cape Verdean Maritime Exhibit on July 5, 2011.

When was the last time you went to a book signing or "Meet the Author" event?  Local bookstores and libraries frequently host such events. Often the featured authors are "locals,"  so you just might meet a neighbor you didn't know was an author. Check your local newspaper for listings or go to your local bookseller's or library's website.

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