Featured Resource: - The Snake King of Kalinago

The Kalinago people (also called Caribs) were the first inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Dominica, in the eastern Caribbean. Today, they are the last surviving indigenous people in the region. In a new children’s book, The Snake King of Kalinago, published by Papillote Press, local primary school children from Dominica re-tell a centuries-old Kalinago myth in their own words. A delightful tale for primary school students, The Snake King of Kalinago is our Resource of the Month.

The idea for The Snake King of Kalinago emerged out of a discussion between publisher Polly Pattullo and Kathy MacLean, director of the Ethnic Minority Achievement Service in Wandsworth, south London. For several years, three Wandsworth primary schools have been twinned with schools in Dominica. Two teacher exchanges have taken place, and the schools share several curriculum projects. Students have had the opportunity to learn about differences between their school days, and to exchange musical compositions, ideas for healthy eating, and news and current events.

Two years ago, Papillote Press, a small publishing house based in London and Dominica, published a book called Yet We Survive. The book featured original paintings, photographs and compositions by teens in the Carib Territory, a mountainous coastal area of Dominica where many of the remaining Kalinago people reside today. Polly Pattullo and Kathy MacLean were eager to extend the book’s reach to more students in the UK. The idea for The Snake King was born.

‘Kathy suggested that perhaps we could expand the story of the Kalinago snake which appeared in Yet We Survive, and turn it into a book for primary school children,’ explains Polly. Would some children in Dominica like to re-tell the story themselves?

Last May, Year 6 students at Atkinson School, located near Carib Territory, rose to the challenge. Led by their principal, Alice Laronde, and their teacher, Micheline Bruno, the students collaborated on the story. They participated in a creative writing workshop with literacy consultant Chris Lawrence, and completed the text before the end of their summer term. For illustrations, Papillote Press returned to Yet We Survive, and brought back the beautiful imagery created by local Kalinago teens.

As a classroom resource, The Snake King of Kalinago links with several units in the Primary Literacy Framework, including narrative (Years 1, 2, and 3, Unit 2), stories from other cultures (Year 4, Unit 3), and traditional tales from around the world (Year 5, Unit 2). Particularly in KS2, The Snake King can also be linked across the curriculum, with history (Britain and the wider world in Tudor times), geography (areas of family origin of the main minority ethnic groups in the UK), and art and design. The book, which will be released February 15, is available from Papillote Press (www.papillotepress.co.uk, £3.99).

The Snake King of Kalinago, Polly points out, is ‘virtually the first children’s book to be set in Dominica and to reflect something of the life and culture of the island's people.’ It offers the children of Dominica an opportunity to read a story that reflects their heritage. Here in the UK, The Snake King of Kalinago gives young people the chance to share in a celebration of Caribbean storytelling, and to learn about pre-Columbian Dominican culture from the island’s children themselves. In Wandsworth, students are already enjoying The Snake King. One student from Battersea raves, ‘This is the best story I’ve heard in ages.’

Kate McGovern
Runnymede Trust

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