Book Review: Where is Simon, Sandy?

Lillie Forteau's picture

We've got a new favorite children's book in our house. Written by Donna Seim, Where is Simon, Sandy? is an entrancing look at Turks and Caicos, as well as a lovely tale of a community pulling together and helping each other. A Mom's Gold Choice Award for People's Places and Cultures 2009, Where is Simon, Sandy? is well-read in our house. Every time we read the book, we find new things in the photos - or do a riff off the story and make up new adventures for Sandy and crew. 

 

Where is Simon, Sandy? - children's book, Turks and Caicos

 

Our 7-year old daughter said: "This book is really cool and with such a talented artist. If you're ever sick, you for SURE want Sandy around. I love this book and share it with my friends."

My 7-year old daughter and I were lucky enough to sit down and talk with Donna about her book, Turks and Caicos Islands, kids, and more. Here's what she had to say...

 

 

WE: Please tell us about your book, Where is Simon, Sandy?

DS:     WHERE IS SIMON, SANDY? is the story of a little donkey that wouldn't  quit. It is a folk tale that has been passed down, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, by word of mouth for many generations. The three salt islands, Grand Turk, Salt Cay and South Caicos, harvested salt from the sea for three hundred years. Donkeys were imported to pull the carts loaded with salt to the docks to be shipped to the United States and Europe. These intelligent donkeys learned their routes from the salinas, where the salt was harvested by evaporation from the sea water, to the shipping docks. The donkeys were able to walk the route without being led, they knew the way.

One famous little donkey, named Sandy, carried the water from the fresh water well to the townspeople with her master everyday. But one day the master, Simon, did not come out of his cottage, so the donkey went alone, stopping at every gate. The children in the town saw Sandy without Simon and began to follow her. The townsfolk all asked the donkey, "Where is Simon, Sandy?".  Sandy just shook her head and continued on her way. Sandy's last stop was the doctor's house, alerted by Sandy he follows the little donkey, along with the children, to Simon's house. Upon arrival they learn that Simon has tripped and sprained his ankle, and must stay off it until it mends. The children offer to help Simon by hitching Sandy to her cart and delivering the water to the townsfolk. They come everyday until Simon's foot mends, but when Simon is ready to take over, the children and Sandy are all sad. So Simon says that they may accompany Sandy and he the next day, and the next day and every day after that... "And so if you are lucky enough to come to this island in the Caribbean, look for an old man, a little donkey hitched to her cart filled with pails brimming with water, and a parade of children 
singing and dancing!"

 

Where is Simon, Sandy? - children's book, Turks and Caicos

"And so if you come to this special island in the Caribbean, look for an old man, his little donkey, and a cart full of pails brimming with water."

 

 

WE: What led you to write this book?

DS:     My husband and I have been traveling to the Turks and Caicos Islands for many years. The country is made up of forty islands and cays, (pronounced keys), most of which are uninhabited. On one of our trips we decided we would visit two of the more undeveloped islands of North and Middle Caicos. We found ourselves a super guide, Bryan Manco, the Environmental Officer for the country. The trip turned out to be more like a safari than a visit. We had to take a puddle jumper to North Caicos then stay over night in a small hotel where we were the only guests! We met Bryan and his truck with big wheels and proceeded to drive through washed out roads and piles of mud and sometimes up to three feet of water. We then took a ferry, just big enough to fit Bryan's truck, to our final destination. During our travel time, Bryan told us incredible stories about the land, the people, and the animals. I wish I had enough time to share them all with you. When I arrived back to our island home, I took out my scribbled notes and typed out thirty pages about the flora, fauna and the incredible people I had met. After that was accomplished I found that one story above all the others touched me the most,  the one about the little donkey. I stared to tell it to friends and family and just about anyone who would listen. Everyone was amazed by the dedication and loyalty of the donkey. I write short stories and novels, but never thought about doing a children's picture book. I wrote it as a short story and sent it to the Turks and Cacicos National Museum to read to the children in their children's programme. That way at least they would have their own folk tale written down. They called me within three hours of my sending it to them via email. They said they wanted to see the story become a book, and they would love to publish it!

 

Where is Simon, Sandy? - children's book, Turks and Caicos

"The children followed Sandy. They stopped at each gate when Sandy stopped, and called to the other children to come out and follow Sandy too."

 

 

WE: Why didn't the villagers have running water?

DS:     Good question! We all take running water from our faucets for granted. When you live on an island with no fresh water reserves, the only fresh water comes from the heavens! The roofs of the houses are designed to catch the water. In the old days a bucket or large pot would be placed below the gutter. Now they have cisterns made of cement that hold the water. The island of Grand Turk has two fresh water wells, one in the North and one in the South. In the story we put the well right in his yard, but Simon most likely would have traveled to the well to get the water and then into town to deliver it. The well water would be for drinking and the water from the roof would be for washing. The people who did not have Simon and Sandy to deliver the water would have to walk all the way to the well and back again, often they would carry the full bucket of water on their heads.  Simon and Sandy would have been considered a luxury.  Today we have plumbing on the islands and now you can have town water piped in. All the water is taken from the sea and then the water is put through a system of reverse osmosis to take the salt and impurities out. But, the town sometimes, often, can run out of water so you had better have a roof to catch the rain or you may find yourself with out a drop of water.

 

Where is Simon, Sandy? - children's book, Turks and Caicos

This was our visit to the Provo Primary School in Providenciales, the most populated island in the Turks and Caicos Islands. David Bowen is left, his daughter Satchi is in the middle next to me. 

 

 

WE: What is it like to write a book about a true story?

DS:     When I am asked how true the story is, or was there really a Sandy, I 
answer that it is based on a folk tale passed down for generations. During those tellings I am sure parts have been added and subtracted. But since the core story is true or at  least we all believe it to be true, and has never been written down before, I found it easy to mold it into a children's story. The other thing I did was to make sure that I got all the back matter correct, I spent almost as much time on my Author's Note and Fun Donkey Facts as I did writing down the story!  Susan the illustrator worked carefully to make sure the illustrations depicted the place and people as close as possible.We  used my vast collection of photos that I have taken over the years. I must  say that the locals love the telling of the story and have said that they found it to be a true representation of their island. I couldn't have considered the book a success if the locals did not give it their okay!

 

Where is Simon, Sandy? - children's book, Turks and Caicos

This is a reading and sing along at The Turks and Caicos National Museum on the island of Grand Turk. The setting of the story is Grand Turk. The gentleman on the left is Mr. David Bowen, Director of Culture for the Turks and Caicos Islands. When he reviewed WHERE IS SIMON, SANDY?, he became involved and set up school visits on all the six islands with primary schools. We had 68 children attend this event at the museum. The children all participated in a coloring contest to win an autographed book of their own. Each school also received a book for their libraries.
The lady standing is Agnes, the Cultural Officer for the island of Grand Turk. We are singing along with David. He has written songs that go along with the story and is presently working on a musical play for all the school children on the islands to perform.

 

 

WE: How can kids learn more about Turks and Caicos?

DS:     I think I would start with my website which has two slide shows giving a sneak peek of the islands. The Turks and Caicos National Museum is loaded with information about the history of the islands. Unfortunately they have had problems since the hurricane and the computer crashed. All the text is there to read but the pictures have not been added yet.  If you want pictures check out, www.turksandcaicostourism.com, they have a wonderful slideshow and tons of information about visiting the islands.

There are also some great travel guides that you can find in book stores on The Turks and Caicos Islands. Wikipedia has lots too, just google Turks and Caicos Islands and you can find many interesting websites.

 

Where is Simon, Sandy? Children's book, Turks and Caicos

  Donna and David at the Cultural Arts Center in Providenciales. 

 

 

WE: Please share with us your ongoing work in Turks and Caicos...

DS:     This has been a busy year filled with traveling four times to the Turks and Caicos Islands. When we were looking for reviewers for the book we wanted to get the blessing of the islanders first. Publishing Works, the publisher in collaboration with the National Museum, sent the book to our list of hopefully interested islanders, they all wrote back with great reviews. Especially, David Bowen, the Director of Culture for the islands who gave us a fabulous review. We had planned a big party-fundraiser with the museum to go along with the launch of the book and he said he would write a song and come to the event with his dance troupe. What could be better than that! We were all thrilled. Then first Hannah then Ike hit in September of 2008. The three salt islands were devastated, with Grand Turk sustaining the worst of the damage. 80% of the homes were heavily damaged. People were homeless, living in tents. No electricity for months, we couldn't even get cell phone calls through to our friends there. It was no longer a good time to throw a fund raiser for the children's programme of the Museum, rather it was time to help people get the roofs back on their homes.

The launch of the book was a quiet one, but thanks to David Bowen, it happened. He organized a launch at the Unicorn Bookstore in Providenciales, the larger resort island and the only island that has a bookstore. But he did more than that, he made us an itinerary that would cover the winter months. We visited every primary school on all the islands. Each school was presented with a copy of the book for their library. We also held a coloring contest for each school awarding the winning student with their own copy of, WHERE IS SIMON, SANDY?

On every visit to the schools David would blow his conch horn, (a horn made from the conch shell), to the north, south, east and west summoning down the ancient story telling ancestors to join us in our story telling. The children were ready to listen! Then I would read the story and we would have some fun discussions about the book afterwards.  David would sing his song, the song about Simon, and Sandy and Forty Turks and Caicos Islands! We would all join in on the chorus lines, which were easy to learn and the children sang out loud and strong. David is currently writing songs based on the story to become a musical play for the children of the primary schools to 
perform. All to be accompanied by a rip saw band!

 

Where is Simon, Sandy? - children's book, Turks and Caicos

 David blowing his conch horn to summon down the ancient story telling ancestors to join us. He blows it to the North, South, East and West. I believe the ancestors hear him because it is very loud. Fishermen used the conch horn to locate one another when out fishing for conch.

All the proceeds from, WHERE IS SIMON, SANDY? are being donated to the children's fund of the Turks and Caicos National Museum. It is a free programme for the children to learn their history, culture and heritage. The museum hosts a summer camp and the children this year will be learning everything there is to know about mangroves and mangrove trees. Last summer they made an exact reproduction of their historic Front Street. During the year watercolor workshops were given painting the colors of the turquoise ocean that surrounds them. The children also painted a colorful mural outside of one of the primary schools in Grand Turk.

We have started a Where is Simon, Sandy? Pen Pal Club. The students of the after school program at the Newburyport YWCA are writing to students at the Ona Glinton Primary School on Grand Turk. It is an excellent way for the children to share their different cultures and experiences. The book has become an ongoing project for me. I am now working on a second picture book, about and island girl whose dream is to tame a wild horse.

 

Where is Simon, Sandy? Children's book, Turks and Caicos

Donna and David doing an interview and reading of the story, WHERE IS SIMON, SANDY?, for the Kid's Club Radio Show.

 

 

WE: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

DS:     Well, Dr. Jessie and Lillie, I think your questions have covered a lot of 
ground. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share my experiences with you and your well traveled readers and writers! The making of, the promoting and selling of, WHERE IS SIMON, SANDY? has been a major adventure for me and the rewards have been far too many to count!

Here is my favorite picture of the Kindergarten class of seven girls and myself from the very precious island of Salt Cay. There is a population of 76 people and not one automobile on the island! It is one of my favorite places in the world!

 

Where is Simon, Sandy? - children's book, Turks and Caicos

These are my friends from Salt Cay. Only 76 people live on this island. There are no cars or traffic lights. The people walk, ride bikes and a few have golf carts. Everyone says "Good Morning", or "Good Afternoon", to you. The children call me, "Miss Donna".  It is a wonderful place to visit. It is very quiet. The water is turquoise blue and the sand is very white.

 

WE: Thanks so very much, Donna. WE LOVE your book and are happy to share it with our readers!

 

For more information, please see:  www.donnaseim.com

 

BOOK GIVEAWAY!

 

Donna Seim has generously donated one copy of Where is Simon, Sandy?, to be awarded to one randomly chosen commenter on this article.  To comment, you must be a member of Wandering Educators (free), and reside in the U.S.. The contest will run from July 3rd, 2009, until 11:59pm, July 10th, 2009. Any comments left on the article within that time are eligible for the drawing.

 

Feature Photo:  This is the first page of the book, showing Simon's cottage and Sandy in her shed, Blackie the cat,  Bupper the rooster and the very chatty hens.

All photos courtesy and copyright of Donna Seim.

Comments (6)

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    11 years 2 months ago

    we DO love this book! and, some lucky winner will get a copy! YAY! 

     

    Jessie Voigts, PhD

    Publisher, wanderingeducators.com

  • Donna

    11 years 2 months ago

    Dear Dr. Jessie and Lillie,

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your tremendous support and giving me the chance to be part of Wandering Educators! It is a fabulous web site and I am proud to be a part of it. I did receive rave reviews from all the people I sent a link to the interview. Everyone was so greatly impressed how well it was all put together and how complete it was!

    So thank you again, it was a pleasure to do an interview with you!

    Most sincerely,

    Donna Seim 

  • Glinda

    11 years 2 months ago

    I enjoyed reading this book to my granddaughter-both for the story and for the great illustrations. Now I will enjoy it even more, after reading this interview. What a lovely place- loved the pictures of the islanders and reading the whole back story...it made it all come alive!

  • ChocolateQueen

    11 years 2 months ago

    I always like to hear from authors about their inspirations.

  • Barbara Greenberg

    11 years 2 months ago

    Knowing what inspires an author really helps me to connect with their work.  This is a book I'd like to read to my children.  Wonderful interview.

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    11 years 2 months ago

    the winner of this awesome kids book, where is simon, sandy? is barbara greenfield. thanks to all that commented!

     

    Jessie Voigts, PhD

    Publisher, wanderingeducators.com

Leave a comment