By far, the most popular contemporary children’s books in Mauritius are the Tikulu Series. These books feature the adventures of a young (presumably Creole) Mauritian boy, Tikulu, and his friends. Tikulu is an intelligent, adventurous, and curious character who continually finds himself in a variety of new situations.
The Tikulu books are unique in many ways. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, they are some of the few books that are written by Mauritians, about Mauritians, and for Mauritians. In fact Mauritius itself and the neighboring islands of Rodrigues and Reunion play integral parts in the plots of these tales. The reader does not need to be intimately familiar with the setting to follow along, but knowing the island does add to the experience of reading the stories.
It is important that children are able to see a connection to their own culture, as well as the cultures of others, in these kinds of works because it helps to create a meaningful connection to literature and reading. Without the sense of involvement, children may neglect to see the importance or usefulness of creating literature or having a literate society.
Another factor is that the artwork is by far the most consistent and sophisticated of the children’s books I have seen so far. The entire series is based around the work of the illustrator, Henry Koombes, with different authors working to create the many storylines. Unlike many of the other books here which use pictures simply as a literal translation of the text, the drawings work to enhance or explain the stories. This creates a more engaging and enriching experience for the reader.
As far as the multicultural issue goes, the Tikulu series is fairly representative, but not without fault. While the characters in the books do seem to represent the many different cultures present here in Mauritius, the stories do nothing to add to the understanding of these cultures or their roles in Mauritian society. In other words, the series is not doing any harm to the multicultural framework here, but it also is not working to promote progress in a positive direction.
Two other strikes against the book are language and gender. Female characters are almost absent from the series, the exception being Konker, a young female friend of Tikulu’s and a secondary character who makes an occasional appearance. Other females do appear from time to time but only as objects of affection, silent spouses, or legendary witches. The treatment is not malicious, but it is an obvious deficiency.
Also, the series is produced in English and French, which completely neglects the majority language of the island, Kreol. It also fails to recognize many of the other native languages such as Bhojpuri, Hindi, and Chinese dialects. The argument is that English and French are the languages of instruction here so they would be the best mediums for publishing. This issue is a point of contention for many educators and advocates of promoting the Kreol language.
The version shown here is in French. The books have been created in French and translated into English. The translations are quite literal with meaning being changed only if entirely necessary for understanding. In addition to the fact that the stories are translated into English, the western reader must also consider that the style of English spoken here is slightly different, particularly from American English. The language is a bit circuitous and there is a roundabout way of speaking that can sometimes seem to include many complex ideas in one or 2 sentences. (I will find and example for my next blog) This should not intimidate the reader, however, any more so than American English should a British reader or vice versa.
Of the books I have seen so far, this series would have the best hopes of transitioning to the American market. Most certainly an American publisher or distributor would try to make changes to the language style and perhaps clarify some points here and there, but it wouldn’t be too revolutionary. It would certainly be an entertaining way to introduce American children to some very simple aspects of Mauritian life.