A Boonoonoonous Morning

Boonoonoonous is a Jamaican word for “Wonderful,” “Special,” or “Sweetheart.” So you kind of just knew when award-winning Jamaican-Canadian author of Boonoonoonous Hair Olive Senior and acclaimed Bronx illustrator Laura James visited preschoolers at Birch’s Soundview Early Childhood Center to read from their book, something wonderful was going to happen. And no one was disappointed.

In this vibrant and richly illustrated picture book, a young girl learns to love her difficult-to-manage hair, which looks nothing like what’s on the heads of the other kids in her class. But Jamaila’s mom goes on to show her all of the amazing things that her hair can do, suggesting a new hairstyle for each day of the week. Each exquisite spread features Jamilla happily engaging with her world at the museum, farmer’s market, library, playground, zoo, and grandma’s house — in different, well, boonoonoonous hairstyles.

“We are still energized by our visit to Soundview Early Childhood Center. A warm welcome from staff, broad smiles, listening ears, and a happy dance from students made for a Boonoonoonous time. Thank you!” — Award-winning author Olive Senior.

The students of Rooms 102, 103, 108, and 110 sat in polite and rapt attention as they watched Jamaila’s mom comb her “snappy, nappy, wavy, crazy” hair into puffs, braids, twists, cornrows, a voluminous afro, and up in ribbons — probably recognizing some of Jamaila’s ‘dos among the hairstyles of their fellow students.

Senior and James also read from Anna Carries Water, their second collaboration, about a Jamaica girl who fetches water from the spring every day, but who can’t carry it on her head like her older brothers and sisters can. This charming story shows young readers the power of determination, as Anna achieves her goal and overcomes her fear.

“We are still energized by our visit to Soundview Early Childhood Center,” said Senior. “A warm welcome from staff, broad smiles, listening ears, and a happy dance from students made for a Boonoonoonous time. Thank you!”

Olive Senior was born and brought up in Jamaica in 1941 and educated in Jamaica and Canada. Among her many awards and honours she has won the Commonwealth Writers Prize and F.G. Bressani Literary Prize, was nominated for a Governor-General’s Literary Award, and was runner up for the Casa de Las Americas Prize and the Pat Lowther Award. In 2003, she received the Norman Washington Manley Foundation Award for Excellence (preservation of cultural heritage – Jamaica).

Laura James, who was born and works in the Bronx, has been a professional artist and illustrator for more than 20 years. In addition to painting sacred images from various religions, she portrays women, families, and scenes of everyday life; blending intricate patterns, text, vibrant colors and sometimes surreal imagery into what she calls “art for the people.”