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A Likkle Miss Lou book cover

A Likkle Miss Lou

By Nadia L. Hohn, Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes. Owlkids Books, 2019. 32 pages, $19.95.
Tina Buttineau

A Likkle Miss Lou is a vibrant and lively picture book that tells the story of the childhood of Louise Bennett Coverley, a Jamaican poet, folklorist, writer, and educator, also known as “Miss Lou.”

Author Nadia L. Hohn brings Miss Lou’s childhood to life, showing us Kingston, Jamaica, through Miss Lou’s young eyes and describing how the poet found her distinctive voice. Bright, beautiful illustrations by Eugenie Fernandes amplify the story and add visual appeal.

Hohn weaves Miss Lou’s poetry throughout the text, giving readers a taste of her use of Jamaican patois, which paved the way for many other performers including Harry Belafonte and Bob Marley. While some vocabulary may be new to readers, there is a great illustrated glossary included to help with comprehension.

Through Hohn’s storytelling, we learn of the stark contrast that Miss Lou experienced growing up, when she was expected to speak “starched sentences that lined up straight and proper,” using “words that had to click like clacking wheels.” But travelling around her hometown of Kingston, Miss Lou listens to people speaking in the musical rhythm of patois. When assigned a writing assignment for class, she longs to “hear their songs on the paper, the bass in her pen, the drum from their words.”

This book would be a great introduction to the Identity and Community expectation from the Language curriculum (A3.2) by providing students with the opportunity to explore “the concepts of identity, self, and sense of belonging in culturally responsive and relevant texts.”

It could also be used as a starting point to introduce students to the language, culture, and landscape of Jamaica to tie in with social studies or geography. Specifically, the Grade 2 Social Studies curriculum has a focus on the experiences that people bring with them to Canada from other parts of the world.

With its inspiring story, bold illustrations, and multiple curriculum connections, A Likkle Miss Lou would make a great addition to any classroom library.

Tina Buttineau is a member of the Bluewater Teacher Local.