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Arts & Culture : Books Last Updated: Sep 24, 2019 - 4:27:48 PM

BOOKING SUCCESS: Blair wins big with order from Education Ministry
By Mallory Williams
Jun 6, 2019 - 8:25:32 AM

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On Tuesday, June 5, teen author Sierra Blair delivered well-over 100 copies of her second book, Roman and The Pink Flamingos to her newest customer, the Ministry of Education. The series’ second instalment is a colorful tale of a uniquely Bahamian experience – a close encounter with pink flamingos at a bird sanctuary. From left to right, Leja Burrows, senior education officer at the Early Childhood Section of the Ministry of Education, author Sierra Blair and Ellen Rhodriguez, senior education officer. Photo by Cameron A Thompson, Precision Media

Hailing a children’s book series as “culturally relevant,” the Ministry of Education lent its backing to a student author, with a significant order designed to make the new picture book available to every preschool class in The Bahamas’ public school system.

“Due to the limited age appropriate texts that are culturally available, the Ministry is suggesting that the author(s) consider producing more books for the series,” wrote Education Director Marcellus Taylor in a letter congratulating 15-year-old Sierra Blair.

The Kingsway Academy tenth grader co-authored her first book, Roman and His Mean Family in 2017, with her mom, media and public relations professional, Tosheena Robinson-Blair with illustrations provided by local graphic artist, Rashad Cash.

Encouraged by steady Amazon sale of the print and digital versions of the book, the Blairs took a risk late last year, independently publishing the second instalment in the series, Roman and The Pink Flamingo, illustrated by Grand Bahama native, Lamaro Smith.

The books’ characters do not stray far from home, literally and figuratively, loosely based as they are on the family’s real-life experiences and adventures.

In fact, the series takes its name from Sierra’s little brother, Roman, now a precocious preschooler.

“It is definitely something our preschool students would be able to relate to as it integrates topics related to our curriculum, especially animals. Field experiences which the story scripts, our students are able to have similar experiences visiting our local zoo,” said senior education officer at the Early Childhood Section of the Ministry of Education, Ellen Rhodriguez in explaining why she recommended the purchase.

It was not immediately clear whether Sierra is the youngest, published author to successfully sell her book in bulk to the Ministry of Education.

“We can say, she is one of the youngest authors for picture books that we have had the opportunity to read and critique,” said Leja Burrows, a senior education officer at the Early Childhood Section.

“Authentic Bahamian storybooks is an area where we really are deficient in and so we were happy not only is it local, but the text is appropriate for young children. We recommend it up to grade two. We feel that up to age eight, children can benefit from the storyline. We were quite impressed with the bold colors and the simple, yet realistic pictures.”

For Sierra, the book hand-over brings to an end, a chapter which opened days after her birthday. At that time the family offered up the series for a review by the Ministry of Education.

“As teens we watch musicians, movie and reality TV stars become ‘instantly’ famous and it could program you to believe success comes overnight. It doesn’t. This single chapter in the development of our family business took us more than five months to write,” said the Principal Honor Roll student and co-founder of SITORO, a business Sierra and her mom established to sell the children’s books series.

“I’m finding, in real life true success takes longer, but I’m enjoying the journey.”

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