Children's book: The Granny JJ Adventures
Children's book: The Granny JJ Adventures

This project has already launched.

Hi all! My name is Joshua Cartwright and the lady is above is Granny JJ: Guyana's daily detective. I'm writing a children's storybook loosely based on a great lady called Miss Juliet or Granny JJ (my mother in law!) It's set in Guyana (which is above Brazil if you didn't know) and features Granny JJ bustling around the community solving everyday problems a bit like a Guyanese Miss Marple.

This is an important project because Guyana is a beautiful land that has until recently suffered from a poor economy, corruption and an ineffective justice system; I want to give the children a role model they could relate to in story form set in their own country. It is quite a matriarchal society and the idea of an old woman solving problems the Police cannot is not entirely unrealistic. 

In terms of books: African children have Anansi stories, and there are plenty of other books such as Mfuso's daughters, Handa's hen. In the UK there is Anna Hibiscus and even the classic Amazing Grace . But there's not much I've found for Guyanese children from and about their own culture.

My little daughter Seraphina makes me make up stories for her every night and one night - in a burst of inspiration I decided to make up one about her grandmother Juliet. She doesn't see Seraphina that often as we live 5000 miles apart and so this was a way to help her get to know her a bit better through stories.

Joshua, Glenda and Sera on Christmas morning
Joshua, Glenda and Sera on Christmas morning

On my wife Glenda's insistence I started compiling them and came up with such gems as:

Granny JJ and a dog called Ruffian

Granny JJ and the Blackout Thief

Granny JJ and the Stolen Shaved Ice Syrup

Granny JJ and the girl who cried SNAKE!

I decided to see if I could produce it and sell it to the Guyana school system. The teachers are excellent but have been massively under resourced. I have been to Guyana and many people live lives of basic day to day living.

Me in Guyana with a water coconut! Yum!
Me in Guyana with a water coconut! Yum!

The book is written in British English because the educational system helps children speak that but will have some aspects of Guyanse Creole in. This is a combination of English, Dutch, Arawak Indian and African words. (It is not Jamaican Patwa!) The reading age of the book is about ten years old.

If you'd like to read a preview of the book I've included one of the stories in an extract here along with one of the pictures I commissioned. This will be coloured in eventually.

The book extract is not formatted in the way it will be in the final version - this is to give you a taste of the kind of stories and pictures in it.

What I plan to do

I aim to produce a children's picture book through Amazon's create space self publishing service.

I've got about ten stories which will go into the book.

I have already commissioned some of the pictures and the front page which you can see already in this project and have clear ideas about the others. My illustrator is great as you can see!

Granny JJ and the Blackout Thief!
Granny JJ and the Blackout Thief!

Once I've met the funding goal I'll commission the illustrator to do the rest in about two months total and then get the book made in America. I'll get all your rewards sent out as well!

After that I'll approach the Guyanese ministry of education and see if I can get them to take it on. I have a sister in law who runs a school in Guyana so I can get some help there!

Really there are several goals:

Create a culturally specific children's book which offers stories that children can relate to.

Create a living memory of Seraphina's grandmother.

Risks and challenges

Well, there's definitely some risk involved with a white guy writing stories about a predominantly black culture he didn't grow up in. But my wife and kids are black Guyanese and put up with my constant questioning about how this and that would be said! I've also been to Guyana six times and stayed in peoples' homes, traveled on the buses and spent time in the city. So they are helping me with authenticity.

If the education ministry doesn't want the book I can submit it through my sister-in-law who is the head of a primary school. So we have options.

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