L.A. Wanliss reviews Tata and the Big Bad Bull

Juleus Ghunta, a prolifically published poet, youth advocate and motivational speaker, has written his first book Tata and the Big Bad Bull.  Juleus Ghunta of dreamright (his personal philosophy created at age 12) fame and renowned for his readiness to speak about his survival and rise from poverty and abuse in Hanover, Jamaica, brings to life rural ‘livity’ in Jamaica by combining his love for poetry and his training in conflict resolution. The picture book is published by CaribbeanReads Publishing from St Kitts and illustrated by Ann–Cathrine Loo.

Tata and the Big Bad Bull is the story of an ambitious boy determined to get an education. He heads to school, but he cannot travel the route taken by the other children as his grandmother admits that he is “too poor”. As he attempts to go to school, he must overcome many obstacles turning his journey into adventure and discovery about himself and his community. Tata is a hero, saving himself and the town through a resolution he finds in community. The illustrations by Ann–Cathrine Loo depict the world as a colourful mix of animal and humans co–existing in a quaint rustic world, the images spread from the pictures unto the texts bringing alive the tone and texture of the world being created. Although the story denies linear time and is inconsistent in the text’s layout, it has an “all’s well that ends well” ending conducive to the requirements of it readers.

In true style of an epic children’s picture book, Tata and the Big Bad Bull is written in couplets. The simple poetry that the book exhibits is playfully reflected in the refrain, “his legs tremble, his arms shake.” The language of the picture book is reminiscent of Juleus’ poetry in its deliberate word choice and clear direction, while the story itself deals with complex human relationships albeit in a playful tone that allows for child’s play.

The book embodies promise and holds for young readers enough adventure that they will want to read twice. It is filled with the twist and turns of an adventure story, light and swift for children to play and revel in. It engages with journey and gives the reader hope and instructions about how to overcome obstacles to achieve a dream. In it, is the true possibility of community; Tata is a truly Jamaican text, embodying a “country” lifestyle and brings value to the  importance of community.

This review first appeared in Bookends, Jamaica Observer, on 29 April 2018.

L.A. Wanliss is the CEO of L.A. Wanliss Editing and Consultancy; a teacher; an award–winning writer and theatre director; and is currently completing an MFA at UWI, St Augustine.

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