Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 30th 2014 Contents CHILDREN'S BOOKS
I WILL TRY not to gush about Rachel Jardine's
new Roly Grove series of children's books, but it
won't be easy. As a parent, I spend a significant
amount of time searching for new stories that
are age-appropriate without being patronising,
smart without being confusing, and, of course,
Peng-Wayne and the Flying Machine is the first
of Jardine's seemingly endless list of offerings, all
based on an adorable collection of animals and
people living in Roly Grove. This story, the first to
be published, is about Peng-Wayne (Penguin, get
it?), a fat blue fella who longs to find out what
the clouds taste like, and what the air up there
Naturally, since evolution has ordained that his
species weren't meant to just flap their wings
and take to the skies, he has to resort to other
means of transport. This he does with the help
of some of the other inhabitants of this jelly-bean
coloured town, including the Jelly Bears, a froggy
couple called Mr Todd and Ms Dots, and, most
importantly, the mechanically inclined Cootie
Brothers, Orville and Wilbur.
The story is fresh, fast and witty, and is sup-
ported by some of the best illustrations I have
seen in a children's book, either here or abroad,
produced by her husband/illustrator/business
partner, Christian Jardine. Every single drawing
makes you smile, makes you long to meet these
little characters, makes you wish there were
posters and lunch kits and bookmarks and
erasers . . . Sorry; I'm gushing.
Jardine is an accountant by profession, and, being
a member of the Patraj Roti Shop dynasty, grew
up in business, but regrets not having given full
rein to her writer's instincts earlier.
A cancer diagnosis forced her to leave her job to
seek treatment. "I had non-invasive cancer," she
explains. "You never hear the 'non-invasive' part
--- all you hear is the 'cancer' part, with lots of ex-
clamation points afterwards!" The treatment
took a toll on her physically and mentally, and she
is grateful for the family support that saw her
In better health now, and having welcomed Evie,
a "miracle" baby that she was told she was un-
likely to ever have, she works from home, beside
her artist husband, who does graphic and com-
mercial design for media and advertising. She
also has two sons from her previous marriage,
Chad, 15, and Caleb, 8, who are her major sources
of inspiration for her stories.
This is when most of Roly Grove came to life ---
and grew even beyond the idea of a few books.
"It's not a series. It's a project. We've had Roly
Grove Publishing registered as a publishing
house. Our goal is to teach children that there are
many careers in art, writing and publishing.
Trinidad isn't about oil alone."
Later this year they intend to hold a workshop
for children, hosted by other writers and artists,
for that purpose. They hope that parents will en-
courage talented children to follow these routes,
rather than force them into traditional careers for
fear of future economic difficulty. "There's media,
there's editing. There are a lot of jobs out there."
She'd also like to see the kids develop an appre-
ciation for the English language, rather than take
the lazy way out and lapse into "textspeak".
"Every time I hear my sons say 'LOL', I want to
scream!" she laughs.
At the moment, she's working on converting
Peng-Wayne and the Flying Machine to a kindle-
friendly format to have it published on Amazon,
but is hoping for the funding to have it printed as
well, just because of how delightful it feels to a
child to hold a book in her own hands. "I love
books. I love to feel them and hold them." She'd
love to have the means to supply her books free
to libraries, but, of course, funding isn't easy. She
and her colleagues are brainstorming ways to
have the project crowd-funded, or even spon-
sored by corporate entities with a vested interest
in child literacy.
As passionate as she is about using her series as
teaching tools, the last thing she wants is for her
books to fall into the pattern that many children's
books do: staid, dull, moralistic and silly. "My sto-
ries have no moral. When I was a child, reading
was fun. Now, there's no humour in books; they
just want to kill the children with lessons to learn.
Children are stressed out. I don't want reading to
be a task. Give them something to laugh about.
Give them something fun."
As a mother, as a book lover, I wish her every suc-
cess. Sweet, smart, funny and engaging, Rachel
Jardine's Roly Grove series is destined to be a
home-grown treasure that deserves to find its
way into eager little hands this year.
By Roslyn Carrington Photography courtesy Rachel Jardine
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