Sareen, a young girl in Jamaica, is attending her first “sit-up,” a wake for her beloved Nana who has died. In Jamaican tradition, a ghost, or “duppy” stays for nine nights after death. On the ninth night, friends and family hold a “sit-up” to entertain the ghost so it will leave and find peace. In the note at the end of this book, the author writes that while wake customs have changed over time, Jamaican children still love “duppy stories” – especially because they honor the person who has died and affirm their lives. Between stories the celebrants feast on traditional foods, like curried goat and boiled green bananas.
Sareen wants to tell stories about her nana, but she is afraid she will burst into tears. Or maybe worse, what if when she tries to speak, no sound comes out of her mouth?
In the end, Sareen finds the courage from her love, and manages to tell her story of trying to find the sweetest mango for her sick nana. Happy she could participate, she joins in the dance at sunrise to see her nana off to her rest.
Evaluation: This heartwarming story, illustrated with portrait-like pictures by the talented Eric Velasquez, is a good way to show children how to deal with death, while simultaneously teaching about the people and customs of Jamaica.
Published by Clarion Books, 2005
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 40 pages