GREAT BAY, St. Martin (2020)—Ti Koko and Kush Kush by Patricia G. Turnbull is a storybook for boys and girls, ages 4 to 9, set on the lush bayside of Garden Bay on a tropical island paradise. Sounds familiar? If you have grown up on or near a beach, or wish that you did, this is sooo your story. If you’re from the countryside or city it’s also off to a magical place for your children, and you too.
Ti Koko and Kush Kush is about “a happy little coconut tree and a friendly, wise yam” in a small community, reviews Nicole Phillip-Dowe on the book’s cover.
What happens on the bayside is not all happy, however. The little coconut tree is soon physically crushed by “Brogudoosh!,” a big new development thing that bullies its way onto the beach. The coconut starts to bawl, “I’ll never grow tall to stir the breeze and brush the sky.”
The breadfruit doesn’t know what to do, the calabash is crying. It’s Kush Kush yam to the rescue of Ti Koko and rallies the neighborhood: “Remember your roots,” she said, “or you will fall! You must stand on your roots to reach that high.”
Turnbull’s choice of the yam as a culture-bearer is brilliant. The yam has a royal origins legacy deep in the psyche of Caribbean people. It’s also a staple to “nyam” in our cuisine (yes, I’m a foodie), and a main survival food for over 300 years.
As for the coconut, respect to one of the oldest living natives of the region.
I’m always collecting children’s books for the beauty of the story and of the book’s design, which helps to make reading exciting in the home.
But I’m also thrilled that the book’s plants and trees bear fruits and vegetables that we can “culture” in our yard. They stay connected and care for each other in very difficult times. A storybook that may also be perfect for people held up at home by the COVID-19 pandemic—affecting island communities and countries on continents.
When I bought Ti Koko and Kush Kush for my girls, Amisha, and the youngest, Sanaa, it was because I loved its message in words and pictures. Strong roots define who you are, what you will become and keeps you grounded, literally.
Amisha was the first to say that she loves the book. The easy reading means that she can also be the proud big sister, acting as a storyteller to Sanaa anytime.
The colorful art by Reuben Vanterpool, exclusive for Ti Koko and Kush Kush, illustrates the poem-story’s talking plants and fruits, fishermen with their boat on the beach, farmers by moonlight, and children going home after school (hurricane Irma destroyed the original oil paintings).
This is the second oversize, hardcover book from House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP) that I’ve bought for children and fell in love with to my own amazement. I’m happy to know that a Caribbean publisher and writers in the region are creating such wonderful work. This happiness is shared as the joy in my voice when I read these stories to my children.