This whimsical tale of the child who kept slimy monsters, prickly porcupines and a host of other strange and notable pets was a big hit in Port Au Prince! We brought Heironymous Betts and His Unusual Pets to three sites in July of 2012: the Centre d’Education et de Formattion des Jeunes in the Cité Soleil slum, the SAKALA recreation center in the Cité Soleil slum, and the OJFA orphanage.
In the Centre d’Education et de Formattion des Jeunes, we traded off paragraphs of the story with our Kreyol translators, starting each paragraph in English and repeating it back in French. The original English version of the story was heavy on linguistic twists and rhythms and thus managed to engage even the children who spoke no English. All of the children listened attentively to the words and changes in tones and watched the body language of the story tellers, and then compared them to the more familiar French versions.
When we finished story time at the two schools, we asked the children to draw us their own imaginary pets. We saw some interesting creations, ranging from monsters to chickens to robots to slithering snakes!
At the OJFA orphanage, we tried a different and more ambitious project. Instead of asking the girls to draw pets at the end of the story, we asked them to make pets, and provided them with bits of felt, feathers, googly eyes, glitter, glue, gems, pipe cleaners, and flashy scraps of paper. At first, the children were not quite sure what to do, and got off to a hesitant start, but before long, they began accumulating pet parts and trying things out. And just like that, they whipped up a veritable buffet of gem-encrusted turkeys, six-legged felt monsters, snakes with pipe cleaner tentacles, three-eyed birds, and feathered cats amidst a constant sea of joyous laughter. This time, we left their art behind, and brightened up their orphanage by hanging up each of their bright, silly creations on the bare concrete walls.
At all of the sites, we hung and left behind the large, illustrated posters that tell the story of Heironymous Betts and His Unusual Pets, as both a tool to keep their imaginations engaged and a memento of a fabulous time!