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Caribbean giant with amazing TALENT
There is no way for me to convey the sadness I felt last week, when I learned that Trinidadian children’s author Roy Galt had passed away just one day from his 90th birthday. In the very small world of Caribbean children’s literature, Roy Galt stood as a giant among a handful of writers, whose work could have become international best sellers if we only had publishers more devoted to the cause of publishing and promoting children’s literature.
A few years ago, Roy’s daughter Christine asked me to read her father’s first book, Boldly the Trips. I could not put it down. The adventures of Chanka, Bobby and Peter, collectively known as The Trips, filled me with hope that a thriving children’s literature market could be on the horizon.
Boldly the Trips offers valuable lessons about prejudice and impulsiveness, nestled in a tense, frightening adventure in which three boys out to have a good time end up depending on each other for their lives as they battle drug lords. The events are set into motion by a simple mistake: a ball that lands in a well-guarded yard. The title comes from the nickname given to the boys, the “Trinee Trips,” by their teacher, Mr Dolsingh.
By the second book in the series, Mysteriously the Trips, readers realise The Trips are three boys who just can’t stay out of trouble. Even at Christmas when they’re trying to do good deeds, The Trips stumble on more trouble than they can handle.
In the sequel to Boldly the Trips, the trio of Bobby Hobson, Chanka Dolsingh and Peter Poon Choy become involved in a kidnapping after they do a good deed for a poor family in their neighbourhood. The Trips’ adventure comes to a nail-biting climax when the boys go to Maracas and stumble on some kidnappers. The story weaves in some interesting digressions that provide invaluable background on important characters.
The boys’ adolescent notion of patriotism is noteworthy. Important themes of friendship and loyalty provide important lessons about relationships in an increasingly fragile, empty, superficial world. The Trips are admirable role models for elementary school boys. The are feisty and inquisitive, but not troublesome or rude. They respect their parents; they care about people and help people. They also care about their country and the problems that plague it. They take an interest in language and communication. They are simply spirited boys who fall into adventure.
Galt’s series, Boldly the Trips and Mysteriously the Trips, joined the ranks of quality children’s literature, novels for eight to 14-year-olds that bridged the gap between children’s literature and young adult literature. It qualifies as high-interest, low-reading-level material that could be appreciated by teens as well.
I am still amazed that the Trips series was self-published. On his last birthday I asked Roy why he never found a publisher. “Not at my age,” he said. “I might wait until it’s too late.” He just wanted to enjoy writing. And so it was that Roy Galt devoted himself to children’s literature, the most under-valued literature in the Caribbean. Roy had an amazing ability to be relevant: to connect to youth today through the values, conflicts and characters that he created.
He created plots that moved at a blistering pace, weaving in descriptions and characterisation in just the right balance so that even computer-age children would not get bored. Students in my library loved Roy’s books. All libraries need to carry the Trips series. All parents of elementary children need to encourage their children to read Galt’s stellar series. After I wrote a tribute to Roy’s work on his last birthday, he sent me this e-mail:
Dear Mrs Jacob,
I have no words to express my appreciation for your kind and laudatory article appearing in today’s Trinidad Guardian. I could hardly recognise myself, at times, in the panegyrics you claim on my behalf. Nevertheless, I know you meant them sincerely and, so, my thanks to you.
We old writers are not about seeking adulation and fame, all we crave is a bit of recognition and encouragement, both of which you dished out so liberally to me in your article. And so I say to you, thanks for your birthday gift, it made my day and has already found its “home” in my scrapbook of “The Trips.”
The last time we spoke, he was happily working on a third book in the Trips series. I hope he completed that novel. I wish that publishers had discovered his work years ago so we could have had ten books of this timeless series destined to be Trinidadian classics—if the people of T&T step up to care about their literature as they should.
Roy leaves a legacy of quality literature with memorable characters: childhood friends finding a way to enjoy T&T; finding a way to survive in this volatile nation. For those accomplishments, I am forever grateful. You can find the Trips series at Criss Cross in Woodbrook.
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