On a Caribbean beach, Dan cooks up a mean fish stew (in a large pot on an open fire) consisting of several types of tropical fish, onion, garlic, scallion, tomatoes, thyme, pepper and other ingredients. Though on reflection these are not the sort of foodstuff that have any particular appeal to infants, the story is in essence a celebration of an aspect of Caribbean culture, and the real point is that the resultant stew is so mouth-wateringly aromatic that locals and tourists alike come snaking their way up the beach, conga style, to feast. Everybody is delighted with the meal, but none more so than the cook. ‘Dan grinned wide, man, his teeth as bright as the frothing tide.’
If this picture book had been published a couple decades ago, it would probably have been considered perilously close to prevailing stereotypes of smiling, happy-go-lucky islanders, without a care in the world. However with the passage of time these stereotypes may now seem relatively innocuous, having been superseded perhaps by more modern, disquieting ones. In any event when the author is black, the issues involved become somewhat blurred. Ayliffe’s stylised illustration – colourful, fresh, joyful – delivers the full import of the text.