Bestselling Black Caribbean Picture Books

This list is from 2018 but you know books don’t go stale.

Wadadli Pen

Shout out to Jamaican-Canadian author Olive Senior and Antiguan-Barbudan-American illustrator Laura James on making the African American Literary Club’s Top 133 African American Children’s Books as determined by authors, industry professionals, and readers with both Bounounous Hair and Anna Carries Water.

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Also Antiguan-Barbudan-American Ashley Bryan, illustrator of African American poet Nikki Giovanni’s I am Loved, and writer and illustrator of his own Freedom Over Me.


Also Jamaican Kellie Magnus’ Little Lion Goes to School with illustrator Michael Robinson is on the list – shout out to her.


Don’t forget to check out other Caribbean books for children and specifically our list posted here of Antiguan and Barbudan children’s books.

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and…

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Blogger on books

The Blogger on Books Series. Back to the Beginning. For the latest installments in the series, check Joanne’s Extra-ness.

Wadadli Pen


From about 2006 to 2010, I (Joanne C. Hillhouse) wrote a blog on My Space called ‘Read Anything Good Lately’. Well, that blog has gone to the birds but I wanted to archive (only) some of my favourites from the blog here. Feel free to add some of your favourite reads in the comments section. Going forward, likewise, I won’t be blogging on everything read, but if there’s something I like and feel like commenting on, here’s where I’ll do it. So, keep checking back.

On this list:
*sorry but the internal jumps are being moody, scroll down to find the review you’re looking for (or tell me how to fix it :-))

After Leaving Mr. McKenzie by Jean Rhys
Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books (Issue 1)
Antigua and Barbuda Review…

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Updates to the Blog (060920)

Here’s my Sunday blog (link-up with the Caffeinated Reviewer).

Blog features

New CREATIVE SPACEs have tackled history (literally) and food (culturally).

New Blogger on Bookses have talked about To Shoot Hard Labour, a post-slavery narrative out of Antigua and Barbuda that should be required reading locally, and is highly recommended no matter where you are, and Black Brother Black Brother by African-American authorJewell Parker Rhodes.

Excerpt of my review of the latter: ‘It is a bit of teen hubris to seek out a former Olympian to coach him through his schoolyard troubles but the use of fencing as a motif and a plot device is inspired and effective. Parker Rhodes gives insight to the history of the sport described by Donte as “athletic chess” giving it and the story a wider social context even as she makes it personal to the boy who identifies it as “my superpower”. Like Neo in The Matrix, he can read and anticipate the code. “I can see, feel the foil’s power.”’

ETA: Since initially posting this, I finished The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig; my quick take review is linked here. Spoiler alert: I liked it.

Speaking of book recs, I made a Litreactor list of Black Authors You Should Read. Also happy for the shout outs. Speaking of, I’ve added the link to the shout outs section of my media page.

Bonus – what I’m watching

Still enjoying The Old Guard, so much so I’ve checked out some other films by cast member Marwan Kenzari (not Alladin, but The Angel and The Promise, both based on bleak true stories, and the decidedly not based on a true story re-watch of sci fi flick What Happened to Monday?)

I finally got around to seeing The Dark Tower movie. I’ve long been a fan of the Stephen King book series but previews of the film didn’t tickle me. Having now seen it, I’ll say that if this had just been a movie and not having to live up to The Dark Tower series it would be quite good – the performances are okay especially Matthew McConaughey (whom I’m not usually a fan of) and Idris (whom I am though he is not Roland ), and the kid who plays Jake (though the changing pitch of his changing voice is sometimes distracting). Unlike the King series, the movie didn’t feel unique but it was entertaining notwithstanding a fairly formulaic execution. My re-read of The Waste Lands was miles more exciting though.

The other recent-ish watch that comes to mind is a Holocaust film, which I think was an 80s TV movie but which I saw on Netflix,  Playing for Time. A haunting film.

How about you? What are you reading, watching…how’re you being?

Chadwick Boseman (in Tribute)

I wanted to wait for a word from the man who directed the King before posting anything here. Well, Ryan Coogler has said a word, and it is expectedly and exceptionally moving.

“I haven’t grieved a loss this acute before. I spent the last year preparing, imagining and writing words for him to say, that we weren’t destined to see. It leaves me broken knowing that I won’t be able to watch another close-up of him in the monitor again or walk up to him and ask for another take.

It hurts more to know that we can’t have another conversation, or facetime, or text message exchange. He would send vegetarian recipes and eating regimens for my family and me to follow during the pandemic.  He would check in on me and my loved ones, even as he dealt with the scourge of cancer.”

I have lost family to cancer, in childhood and most recently this year. I have felt and seen the toll that it takes on the individual and on the family. It is remarkable to me that Chadwick was able to  square up against this disease, and convincingly live and work and do red carpets and interviews and visit children battling cancer and send Ryan Coogler and his family recipes to help them. He’s been living with this since 2016 (shortly after first putting on the Black Panther suit for Civil War) while giving us T’Challa in Black Panther and Infinity War and Endgame, and performances in other films like Da 5 Bloods which I’ve written about on here before (singling out his performance) and Message from the King, a taut action flick elevated by his presence, which I watched this past weekend. A remarkable man and an actor who has left an impressive body of work in a short time (playing remarkable figures like Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and a super hero for Black people everywhere), especially when we consider the circumstances under which many of these iconic performances were created.


Black Lives and Black Art (site updates)

It’s crazy busy right now so I’m only dropping in to point you to the latest CREATIVE SPACEs.

One takes in Antiguan and Barbudan artist Heather Doram’s Pandemic Series which touches on the particular vulnerabilities and the pain but also the resilience and beauty of Black lives.

The more recent revisits the post-slavery walk to freedom literally and figuratively of Black people in Antigua and Barbuda through a book called To Shoot Hard Labour – timely because for the millionth time chattel slavery in some of its most brutal forms existed in the Caribbean. So check the post and ultimately the book (which I haven’t written a review for as yet) if you want to learn more about the Caribbean beyond sun, sea, and sand.

Finally, a by the by that’s the very definition of burying the lead, I’ve been longlisted for a prize offered by the Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival, the BCLF Elizabeth Nunez Prize for Writers in the Caribbean.

Til another time.


Book Report

What I’m reading

I found this image just now and it seemed a good time to update on my reading progress or lack thereof. This is a picture of my pages in the New Daughters of Africa, in which my story ‘Evening Ritual’ is published. It is one of the books I am reading. I am up to page 301, only 99 pages from the midway point. Yes, it’s a lot but it’s also a lot of good and I’d like to rush through it (it came out last year) but that’s okay. Little little full basket.

I finished my re-read of To Shoot Hard Labour, the re-read of which wasn’t even in the cards until I was invited to participate in the July radio discussion of the book

but I’m glad I did and I’m working on a discussion of it for my CREATIVE SPACE column and haven’t started work on the review for posting to Blogger on Books as yet. I’ve been busy with work (editing, workshop prep) and the usual juggling act that comes with freelancing and #TheWritingLife (not complaining, in this time opportunities even when they overwhelm, are a good thing) – plus my eyes are not cooperating. But I will post on it as soon as I can.

Currently feeding my reading jones with an audio book, which I am enjoying, The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig. I’m still a book-book girl but it’s good to be able to close my eyes and still read for a while.


That’s the name of the short story I submitted to the Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival Elizabeth Nunez Award for writers living in the Caribbean. I learned today that it’s long listed. So, yay. That I was tagged as being from SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) and not ANU (Antigua and Barbuda) which I’m actually from…seems about right. Still, yay.

That’s it. That’s the post.

Read more here.

Been Watching (a Pictures Post)

One reality of this pandemic is how claustrophobic it feels. It’s a holiday start-of-week here in Antigua and Barbuda – between Emancipation Day (August 1st 1834 marking the liberation of enslaved Africans/people of African descent) and Carnival Monday and Tuesday (sans Carnival since that has been cancelled due to the pandemic). With no Carnival and the beach remaining closed on public holidays and social distancing restrictions and an ongoing curfew, reality remains rather flat and claustrophobic.

I don’t have any finished books to share so I thought I’d mention two films seen during the pandemic that have a similar stifling feeling though for different reasons – they’re good, but mood killers.

One is Share.

I don’t remember how I came across it but I’m glad I did. Not glad, happy; but it’s a good film. It’s about the sexual assault of a teenage basketball player presented in a way that leaves much uncertainty. In the beginning she doesn’t really know what happened or if anything did but then there’s video but no clear culprit and pressure from her parents to speak and from others to be quiet. It is real and grounded and unsettling.

Also unsettling is a film called Luce.

How to describe this film? When we meet Luce, he is a model student and athlete with a bright future; he is also the adopted son of a white couple and a former child soldier. There is tension between him and an African American teacher played by Octavia Spencer exacerbated by a paper he wrote on Frantz Fanon that had her thinking he was a powder keg ready to blow. The thing is there is so much uncertainty around his motivations and the actions of him and others in the film that it’s not clear he isn’t … or is he being unfairly profiled.

What these two films have in common, at least to me is both being tense, quiet teen dramas in suburbia which gave me an intense sense of the claustrophobia of the situation.

Speaking of claustrophobia, though very far from suburbia and modernity, this article reminded me that I planned to watch Harriet,

the biopic of Harriet Tubman starring Cynthia Erivo and directed by Kasi Lemmons (glad to see her and fellow Black female director Gina Prince-Bythewood, who recently helmed The Old Guard, getting more, beyond overdue opportunities to do mainstream Hollywood films).  Why claustrophobic? because from the very beginning, I have a clenching in my belly expecting the worst though, knowing the history of Harriet Tubman, I expect the story to be ultimately triumphant. I guess I’m feeling particular sensitive to the torture my people endured just now – and, yes, it is my people. Black people are my people. But beyond that, the horrors of chattel slavery were experienced in the Caribbean and Latin America, not just North America – I’ve read enough of our history, of the atrocities of the British Empire Atlantic Slave Trade in the Caribbean and in America, and post-American Independence, slavery in the USA, to know that. As much division as there is in the chatter, even the chatter around this film and Erivo’s right to play Harriet, I know that as sure as I know that my ancestors survived the worst so I could be here to write this. I am currently re-reading a book, To Shoot Hard Labour, about post-Emancipation Antigua (Antigua being where I live), that reminds me that the horrors didn’t end with Emancipation (August 1st 1834 in our case). And when it comes to slave narratives, I’ve always been of the mind that we need to remember, that if they had the stomach to endure it, the least we can do is remember. But these films are never easy. So, I don’t know if I have the stomach for this film but I’m watching it. EDITED TO ADD: Okay finished it. Love the tone – unlike any slave narrative I’ve ever watched in the way it feels not oppressive but…freeing. Harriet Tubman is inspiring as heaven: put the woman on your $20 bill already, America.

ETA Again: How could I forget to mention Ms. Juneteenth.

It’s my favourite of all named films in this post – including Harriet. I suppose because it didn’t fit the theme of the post, although it sort of can as it is about a former teen mom in some ways being suffocated by her life even as she tries to make a better way for her teenage daughter. But it is also so charming. Really liked Ms. Juneteenth starring Nicole Beharrie as a former beauty pageant winner trying to set her daughter on the same path, not strictly to relive pageant glory, but to have her access status and opportunities she would not have access to otherwise. So, it’s similar to Dumplin’ (the also charming Jennifer Aniston film) in some ways, but with the former Ms. Juneteenth’s particular experience as a Black and struggling working class woman with levels of grit and pain mixed in to the sweetness.

One Thing Leads to Another (a Reflection)

Oh Gad!

Oh Gad!, launched 2012.

was recommended on NPR in 2014, that was due to Caribbean-American writer Elizabeth Nunez deciding to recommend it by whatever instincts moved her to do so and possible only because the mass market edition of that book came out that summer.  Publication in the cross-Atlantic anthology Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean  landed me at Aye Write! in Scotland

Joanne, left, with Belizean writer Ivory Kelly at the Aye Write! Festival in Glasgow.

and the PEN World Voices Festival in New York

with Hungarian writer and Festival and Programs Director at PEN America, 2014.

(and my presence at the latter landed me in a photography book of some of the world’s well known authors, and me, Author by Beowulf Sheehan who was the official festival photographer); while being published in global anthology New Daughters of Africa landed me at the Sharjah International Book Fair. With Musical Youth I went to Trinidad, St. Martin, and VI book festivals – panels and school tours.

Reading from Musical Youth and chatting with students at Hillside Christian school in St. Martin.

Me (right), at the Virgin Islands Literary Festival, with Jamaica Kincaid (left) and Opal Palmer Adisa (centre). Photo courtesy Opal Palmer Adisa.

I was able to attract an invitation to the Miami Book Fair thanks to Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure. And each of those, and other opportunities to travel and make appearances, or to be interviewed or featured in media came in different ways – some I had to be proactive, some because the work went ahead of me through some advocate. None of it just happened because the book is out there and often it’s an accumulation of things rather than a single thing. It’s why, despite getting discouraged (and I do), it’s important to keep doing the work and keep scouting for opportunities.” – Me, reflecting on how one thing leads to another as an Extra to the series I did on the Wadadli Pen blog interviewing writers Lisa Allen-Agostini, Diana McCaulay, and Shakirah Bourne. Read the full Xtra and follow the links to the rest of the series.

Emmy Nominations – what I’ve seen and what should win

The Emmy nominations are out. Here are the main categories. I scrolled through and …I’ve really been missing a lot of TV.  I did a quick tally (of the main list, not the full list) and here’s how my viewing breaks down.

Seen some/will probably not see more -The Crown, Top Chef, The Voice, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Handmaid’s Tale

Never seen/don’t plan to – Bad Education, Hollywood, I know this much is true, Black Monday, The Kominsky Method, Dead to Me, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Ozark, Succession, Killing Eve, Euphoria, The Masked Singer, Nailed It, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Better Call Saul

Never seen/plan to check out – Mrs. America, Schitt’s Creek, Ramy, The Morning Show, Pose

Never heard of it/not yet curious – Normal People, Unorthodox

Never heard of it/curious – What we do in the Shadows

Seen – Self-Made, The Good Place, Unbelievable, Little Fires Everywhere, Watchmen

Seen some/will probably see more – Black-ish, Insecure, This is Us, Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Stranger Things

Actively watching – The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Of what I’ve seen, and have opinions on, I’m rooting for either Regina King (Watchmen) or Octavia Spencer (Self-Made) for Best Actress in a TV or limited series; Trevor Noah for best variety talk series; Unbelievable for limited series, it was so tense and emotionally gripping – and Merritt Weaver should have been nominated for either best or best supporting actress – a case can be made either way. That’s it – I don’t really have opinion on anything else. Well, except for LFE (which I liked in a number of ways but overall limped across the finish line) – Reese Witherspoon’s non-nomination seems a bit of a snub (I might have picked her here over Kerry Washington whom I thought gave a stronger performance in American Son – which is also nominated but not listed on the main list – and she was better in Confirmation, the only performance of hers I’ve truly loved, than both of those). Oh, it’s not listed here but love, love, love Black Lady Sketch Show; good for it on its 3 (?) nominations.

Liked Robin Thede’s work on The Nightly Show and her own late night talk show The Rundown, plus A Black Lady Sketch show is legit funny. Oh and I understand there are people big mad at seeing so many Black nominations and all I can say is recognition is long overdue, so stay mad I guess.

With my very limited viewing, that’s it; that’s my commentary re the Emmy nominations. What have you been watching? What do you think of the nominations? Are you inclined to check out any shows you missed because of the nominations?