New Children’s Book Visits Old Days Christmas Traditions

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Verna Penn-Moll, “FUNINTUN’S CHRISTMAS”, 58 pages (6” x 9”), perfect bound, color illustrations throughout (by Cedric Turnbull & Joseph Hodge), Cedar Tree Press 2015, Tortola, Virgin Islands VG1120. ISBN 978-0-9905346-4-8 – [orders 284 495 0114 or e mail bviabe@gmail.com]

Just in time for the upcoming holidays here comes some fun reading and good learning for the young ones and even for the senior ones. Children’s literature of the British Virgin Islands is still in its infancy and it is very important that writers of the caliber of Verna Penn-Moll make their contribution, thus building solid foundations for the authentically indigenous genre. This type of literature is targeted mainly at juveniles; what they read now will remain with them for an entire life, therefore reading about Virgin Islands Christmas traditions is very important in our households where American television is gradually eroding our cultural heritage, way of life, and appreciation for the true meaning of the holidays.

Cultural identity is the cornerstone of a vibrant community; if it is not instilled from an early age, it will have little impact and relevance. The BVI’s motto used to be “We are different”, it is that difference that makes us Virgin Islanders, if there is no difference we are zombies.

Medita Wheatley’s foreword is right on target: “At a time when the older Virgin Islander is struggling to hold on to values and traditions of yesteryear, the coming of ‘Funintun’s Christmas’ is timely. It brings to life the thoughts and actions which shaped the Virgin Island character…there are all sorts of psychological implications which might be mitigated by the use of this kind of literature.”

The story is set in the old days, with Funintun preparing for the Christmas holidays with activities such as harvesting guavaberries, making fly-catchers from tissue paper, and preparing the syrup and other ingredients to make the traditional Christmas drink. The house repairs and touch ups keep everybody busy.

When her cousin Maysie arrives from St. Thomas the whole place looks festive and spic and span. Then cooking and baking activities, the carolers, the Christmas Mass,  the unwrapping of gifts, Christmas breakfast, the serenaders, what a lot of exciting things. Boxing Day has more activities and ends with the fishermen returning with a fabulous catch.

Funintun narrates the many activities for the celebrations of the New Year and we learn about the local names of eggplant, and mouth-watering stuff like daube pork and red beans and rice, Miss Blyden liquor, the Inkberry Tree, the Pistarcle, Tart Making, Christmas Songs, Corn Fish and much more.

This beautifully illustrated book is not a mere walk down memory lane: it is a refresher course for the old generation and great education for the new generation. The narration flows flawlessly and keeps the reader involved. The layout of text and pictures is well balanced and with solid eye-appeal. Warmly recommended. [Reviewed by G.M.]

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