LargeUp Interview: Talking Children’s Books + Family with Cedella Marley

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December 18, 2012

Words by Emily Shapiro, Illustrations by Vanessa Newton—

Cedella Marley

There comes a time in adulthood when you are faced with the challenge of passing on your years of knowledge to a child. The struggle of getting our kids to think we know what we’re talking about is universal. We want them to think the music, styles and slang from our generation is cool, and it’s not usually an easy task.

Fortunately, Cedella Marley, oldest daughter to Bob Marley, singer/songwriter, designer, entrepreneur and humanitarian extraordinaire, has fought the good fight for generations to come. Ms. Marley has added author to her list of titles, creating children’s books that communicate the messages of her father’s music so simply and eloquently that even the most stubborn five year old will be holding a vibe after reading. Her works like Three Little Birds, One Love and her most recent title, Every Little Thing, use lyrics from some of Bob’s best-loved songs to communicate some of the values her family was raised with.

We had our resident children’s book expert, LargeUp contributor and kindergarten teacher Emily Shapiro, chat with her about her books, among other topics. Aside from her many obvious talents, Cedella is extremely insightful about how to best support and enlighten our youth. We highly recommend spreading the love and buying one or all of her books for a child in your life this holiday season.

LargeUp: I’m a kindergarten teacher in New York and I use your books in my classroom, so I’m really interested in speaking with you about them. But I wanted to start by hearing about your journey into writing.

Cedella Marley: From Melody Makers time, I’ve always written songs or choruses. I had forgotten when I wrote The Boy from Nine Miles… that was almost 10 years ago. It’s something that I’ve always loved to do, and something I grew up doing.

LU: There are so many of your father’s songs that have incredible messages for children, how have you gone about choosing the songs to turn into books?

CM: I want to be able to relate the lyrics to them without changing it too much, so with every book I’ve done, I’ve kept the spirit, and just make a few changes because it’s for younger readers.

LU: There are so many that need to be shared this way.

CM: “Smile Jamaica,” “Lively Up Yourself,” “High Tide” and some Melody Makers songs could be perfect [as children’s books]. If I was to really sit down and think about it I would probably find between 20 and 25 songs not just from Daddy but from Mommy’s repertoire too, and the Melody Makers.

LU: You autographed [the book] One Love for my class and I brought it to school on your father’s birthday. I thought this is the coolest thing ever: I’m going to read them an autographed copy of One Love on Bob Marley’s birthday. I was playing his music all day and I pulled it out, and the kids weren’t really that excited. I was much more enthusiastic than they were. But the amazing thing is that, after we read the book, they totally understood the message in it and were able to explain how they followed the same principles in our school, and other things that we could be doing to spread love. That was a really special experience. I used it again in my classroom because a lot of our school’s community was affected by Hurricane Sandy. We did some community service projects and One Love was a perfect book to guide that. So thank you.

CM: No, thank you!

LU: The book has a very strong message. What do you want children to take away when they read it?

CM: I think every child will find someone who looks like them or a member of their family. So it’s relatable. “Little C” was really able to get people together. In Jamaica we say “Puss and Dog can get together, why can’t we love one another.” In the book, she has the chocolate lab, who was Bobby, who was our pet for 17 years and she really brought everyone together to build up the community. It’s like my mother always used to tell us: “Together you are stronger, as brothers and sisters, and friends and family.” I really want to large up Vanessa Brantley-Newton, who did the illustrations. It was easy for me to write it but to collaborate with someone who can really make these characters believable and lovable and liveable [was important] as well.

Read on for Part two of LargeUp’s interview with Cedella Marley