Published on Brock University (http://www.brocku.ca)
Kari-Lynn Winters latest children’s book, Gift Days, could not have been more appropriately titled.
Launched in early November at Brock University’s Hamilton campus, the book is about a young African girl, Nassali, who dreams of an education, but due to the circumstances of having to take care of the household and raise her younger siblings, it simply was not an option – until she received a gift from her brother.
And much like the gift Nassali received in the book, 10 Ugandan girls will be receiving a similar gift.
“It was beyond my expectations,” said Winters of the book launch. “We raised enough money to send 10 Ugandan children to school for a full year.”
Winters said the idea for the book came to her while she was completing her PhD; with a course in multimodal literacies, and more specifically African literacies, acting as the launching pad for what is now a 32-page picture book.
“The one thing that kept coming up was that at the end of a long day, the males in Uganda were able to sit under the jackfruit tree and talk to each other and the females never got this opportunity,” she said of how the story’s shape began. “The girls do so much work they aren’t often able to go to school—and that’s where the story stemmed from.”
Fitzhenry and Whiteside Publishers’ Christie Harkin was one of the supervising editors for the book and was immediately impressed upon reading the story for the first time.
“It was really moving,” said Harkin. “It wasn’t preachy; it’s the story of a girl and even though she’s a universal character, she’s still just one girl.”
Harkin says that they are trying to take their picture book line in a direction toward global citizenship awareness and Winters’ book fell into that category.
“When she came with her book it was really good – she did a lot of research and made sure she knew her topic.”
With almost a year of research put into the book, Winters ensured that there would be a noticeable accuracy in all aspects; from the language to the images to the smallest of details.
“But, I am not the only author on this project,” says Winters. “It takes a team to put it together.”
When Kari-Lynn spoke about authorship she conceived it broadly, including all the staff at Fitzhenry & Whiteside Publishers as well as the illustrator, Stephen Taylor—a Toronto artist, whose beautiful, realistic pictures capture the essence of the book perfectly. Winters also gave credit to the Ugandan scholars who helped her vet the book for accuracy, including three people from Ugandan.—Samuel Andema, Elizabeth Namazzi, and Jalia Kangave.
“Their input was not only helpful, it was crucial for cultural accuracy,” says Winters.
Although defined as a children’s picture book, the universal story reaches much further than a young child.
“You can use for this book for a grade 2-3 classroom but if you want to delve into more sophisticated issues such as children’s rights, critical literacies, equity, or health education it can be used in high school or adult education classes as well,” said Winters. “I knew I wanted to have it access a wide range: a lot of people don’t know about sophisticated picture books.”
For more information on Gift Days or any of Kari-Lynn Winters other works, please visit her website.