By Adia Wynter
“Summertime Fun”, a new slice-of-life children’s book, is the first of its kind to celebrate life and culture in Barbuda.
Darlene Beazer-Parker, born and raised in Barbuda, wrote the book as a peek behind the curtain into Barbuda’s unique culture, showing the wonders experienced by children who grow up playing in the Codrington Lagoon.
Capturing the marvels of the sister island’s life through rhymes and joyful photos, this children’s story does a marvellous job of conveying the history of the island in a captivating way.
Beazer-Parker told Observer, “Because of the lack of modern, written material about Barbuda and its history, I wanted to document that, but I wanted to document it in a way that is easily accessible, and people can read and understand it… rather than a typical historical document.”
This book is also a courier of the environmental message that Beazer-Parker hopes to convey to her readers – the need to protect and preserve the Codrington Lagoon, described as the most valued element of Barbuda’s ecosystem.
She said, “With the lagoon being named a RAMSAR site, it is an important feature. For the children to realise that this thing that we have here is really important, and the fact that we can enjoy it freely, it is significant to us.”
The lagoon’s RAMSAR designation means the wetland is of international importance. Many fear it is being put at risk by major developments underway.
Beazer-Parker’s story of idyllic summertime simplicities tells a tale of a culture tied to a lagoon that goes much deeper than splashes and smiles.
“It is a part of who we are in terms of our identity and our connection to the ocean… This lagoon, it is a part of you in such a way that it feeds you, but you have to take care of it. So, more than anything else, for the children to realise that it is an important part of us,” she said.
“Growing up in Barbuda, I could hardly wait for summer to spend all day at the lagoon,” she recalled. “We swam, fished, and played until the sun went down. As the day wore on, we could hear our parents call our names to come home. Our childhood was carefree. Our island is one of the last untouched places in the world. I want to share these joyful memories and based the story around what is the heart of Barbuda, the Codrington Lagoon, the most valuable component of Barbuda’s fragile ecosystem,” she explained.
She also hopes that this book will foster a greater appreciation of Barbuda’s history.
“It’s like, from the cradle to the grave – it becomes a part of us. It’s that holistic place where you go for healing,” she explained.
The book also includes photos from Barbudan photographer Mohammid Walbrook, who is well known for capturing the island’s heritage and culture through his expressive images.
A teacher by profession, Beazer-Parker began her 30-year teaching career at Barbuda’s Holy Trinity Primary School at the age of 16. She was awarded a scholarship for undergraduate studies in Nova Scotia, Canada, and has also studied in the US.
She now lives in Midlothian, Virginia, with her husband and two sons but says she will always be a “proud Barbudan gyal” at heart.