Yaya Heron’s Jamaican children’s story details Little Apple-Banana’s attempt to persuade the mangroves to help his mother have more children so that she can return to a proper grove of banana trees.
Little Apple-Banana’s mother has only one child. For this reason, she has been exiled from the plantation — “moved from the company of the other banana trees to the centre of a wicked, choking jungle.” Little Apple-Banana believes the mangroves can provide his mother with more children and, thus, help restore her proper place in the world. Despite numerous warnings from other creatures, all of whom tell him that bananas grown in bunches are sent to be eaten by “the cold folk far away,” Little Apple-Banana persists in asking for the mangroves’ help. In the end, Little Apple-Banana and his mother are spared an unfortunate fate with the help of brave wasps.
Heron’s book provides a disjointed and often puzzling read. The plot lacks key details—such as the definition of an “apple-banana”—while simultaneously providing unnecessary detail that is ultimately confusing, such as “the pleas of a little black baby girl” that somehow “saved the banana tree” (though from what is uncertain). To add to the perplexity, the prose is often ungrammatical, as in: “The smell of slightly stagnant water, a general oozing underfoot and the little Apple-Banana found himself by the mangrove swamp.”
Little Apple-Banana’s narrative concludes with a strange and confusing sequence of events involving lightning (spelled as “lightening”), mysterious “ice-blue letters on a lightening [sic] rod,” and “mangrove folk” who are “whirled round and round like bobbins.” It will leave readers scratching their heads.
Overall, this picture book presents many reading challenges. Although the idea of a Jamaican children’s story is appealing — and the author clearly has passion and verve for the story — its execution falls short.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.