Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Pearson’s Stepping Stones Series

I wrote “Errol’s Taxi” many years ago and rewrote it after several rejections, so it was ready to go out again. In January 2012, on a week’s notice, I submitted it to Pearson Caribbean for consideration for their Stepping Stones Series. One year later, I received an email to say that they were interested, after which followed the editing process. In August 2013, I received copies of the book. I wanted to know where they would be available for purchase, but was informed that they would not be put in bookshops. Instead, their agents would be taking inspection copies to schools, after which the schools would put in their orders with the distributer, Carlong, with the intention that the schools would receive books for use in the 2014-15 school year.
I was interested to see what titles were in the series, their reading levels and authors. However, this information seems to be one of the most closely guarded secrets in the publishing industry. On Pearson’s facebook page, the last entry was in 2013, and the videos on that page are unavailable. To get on to Pearson’s website, you have to log in and there are no instructions for registering. All I could find out was that there were 6 levels, with 10 books in each level. They are colour coded with red being the first level.
Since I had an interest in acquiring suitable texts for emergent readers, I found out that I could purchase single copies of some of the books from Carlong. I placed my order based on titles only from what they had in stock. They turned out to be from green (for the average grade 1 reader) and blue and purple levels (for grade 2). On reading the 25 books, I found that only 5 of them had specifically Caribbean content.  
These were, at the Green Level
1.     “Selling Bread” by Melissa Balgobin  – the story of  Eric Williams, first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.
At the Blue Level
2.     “Save My Baby Turtles” by Lucille Wilkinson – set in Trinidad, but applicable to most Caribbean Islands.
At the Purple Level
3.     “Fish Outta Water” by Joanne Hillhouse (Award-winning Antiguan author) – an arctic seal gets transported to the Caribbean.
4.     “Ruby Chick” by Patricia Cuff (retired Jamaican Librarian) – a chicken is lured into the mongoose den.
5.     “Errol’s Taxi” by Helen Williams – Errol uses his taxi to transport goats he steals.
The other titles, while being entertaining or informative for children, are comparable in content to any series of books for beginning readers, such as Harper’s “I Can Read” series and Scholastic’s levelled readers, which are on sale in local bookshops at a lower price – Ja$550.00 compared with Pearson’s – some for Ja$940.00 or and others for $670.00.
At the Green Level are:
1.     “Chicken Licken” by Alison Hawes – a rewrite of the old story about the chicken who says “The sky is falling”. The nut illustrated is a hazel nut, unknown to Caribbean children.
2.     “Chloe the Chameleon” by Celia Warren – the chameleon turns all colours of the rainbow in her attempt to catch the fly.
3.     “Fizzkid Liz” by Linda Strachan – the inventor gets into trouble with her time-travel pogo stick.
4.     “Space Ant” by Celia Warren – lost in space, the ant finally finds there is no place like home.
5.     “The Whale in the Well” by Maureen Haselhurst – how the whale gets out of the well and what she sees.
6.     “How Does Water Change?” by George Huxley – the 3 states of matter.
7.     “Where Do All the Puddles Go?” by David Tunkin – the water cycle. Previously published by National Geographic 2003.
8.     “Night Animals” by Claire Llewellyn – bat, fox, kiwi, owl and raccoon.
At the Blue Level:
1       1.   “Bananas for Breakfast” by Jane Langford – elephants squabble over bananas. I have a problem with the illustrations, which show 5 bunches of bananas on one tree. All Caribbean children know there is only one bunch per tree, but children who’ve never seen a banana tree could be misled. This book was previously published by Rigby in 2003.
2.     “On Safari” by Claire Llewellyn – animals seen in safari parks.
3.     “Poles Apart” by Celia Warren – travels around the world with a walrus and a penguin.
4.     “The Cherokee Little People” by MariJo Moore – a Native American tale. 

5.     “The Giant Jumperee” by Julia Donaldson – Rabbit, Cat, Bear, Elephant and Frog try to find out what the terrifying thing is in Rabbit’s burrow. It is written in the form of a play, so children can act the parts. Previously published by Pearson in 2000.
6.     “Presto’s New Pet” by Damian Harvey – Presto the Wizard goes in search of an unusual pet.
7.     “Changing Shape” by Greg Pyers – animals that change shape to look different.
At the Purple Level:
1.             “King Crab is Coming” by Damian Harvey – but the fish get away before he comes.
2.     “The Rat Princess” by Michaela Morgan – King Rat wants his daughter to marry the most important husband in China, but she wants to marry Grey Rat.
3.     “Count on Your Body” by Kurt Baze – gives numbers of bones, muscles, sweat glands, hairs and other information about the body.
4.     “Living in Space” by Angela Royston – how astronauts carry out their daily activities living in a space station.
5.     “The Seven Continents” by Monica Hughes – the size, climate, people, flora and fauna of each of the 7 continents.
There were 3 titles which I decided not to buy, so I don’t know their levels. They were:
“Art in the Past”; “The Inventions of Thomas Edison”; and “The Greedy Snake”.
About the Authors:
Most of the authors are in the UK and have written hundreds of children’s books between them. The fiction authors include
Julia Donaldson (author of The Gruffalo) ; Damian Harvey ; Maureen Haselhurst; Alison Hawes; Jane Langford; Michaela Morgan; Linda Strachan ; and Celia Warren
The non-fiction authors include:
Claire Llewellyn, Greg Pyers, Angela Royston and David Tunkin.
 A non-UK author, MariJo Moore, of Cherokee, Irish and Dutch ancestry is an author of numerous books on Native Americans.

All the books are beautifully illustrated, with either drawings or photographs. Illustrations are important in children’s books, because they provide interest and clues to the text. There is a tendency to refer to books by their titles and authors, even though the names of the illustrators are on the covers. The following illustrators contributed to the Stepping Stones Series:
Ilias Arahovitis, Zavian Archibald, Kurt Baze, Trevor Dunton, Emma Garner, Clive Goodyear,

Rob Hefferan, Sophie Keen, Paul Korky, Gustavo Mazali, Andy Parker, Michael Reid, Janet Samuel, Andrew Selby, Emma Shaw-Smith, Mike Terry, Sholto Walker and Woody.

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