Highly-Praised Book Raises Awareness of Childhood Adversity

“Rohan Bullkin hates reading. Everyone knows this. His teachers, classmates, everyone – including the Shadows.” So begins Rohan Bullkin and the Shadows, a provocative new picture book by Jamaican poet and Chevening Scholar Juleus Ghunta. Rohan’s reluctance to read is fuelled by Shadows – manifestations of his adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and toxic stress. The book follows his journey from reluctant to enthusiastic reader, a change brought about by the guidance he receives from a magical book and from members of his community who help him to understand the impact of his past experiences.
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The cover of Rohan Bullkin and the Shadows was unveiled today, revealing an image that depicts Rohan’s journey. The cover encapsulates the book’s premise that learning to read well and reading great stories can help us to understand and confront our trauma and to heal. 

Rohan Bullkin and the Shadows aims to help survivors of ACEs and toxic stress by giving them a medium through which to explore their experiences, particularly their struggles with reading and academic work. Extensive research on ACEs has revealed strong connections between early adversity and many children’s academic weaknesses, disruptive behaviours, and negative health and life outcomes.
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International campaigner for ACEs awareness Benjamin Perks says the book “demystifies the emotional turmoil and anguish many children endure but are unable to describe.” Jane Stevens, founder of PACEs Connection, feels that Rohan Bullkin and the Shadows “tells a story of hope for all kids and adults.” Although the book discusses complex topics, the story is brought to life by Ghunta’s lyrical writing and Rachel Moss’ beautiful and imaginative illustrations. In addition to the story, the book includes an appendix that provides a brief overview of ACEs and of tools that can help survivors develop resilience and hope. 

‘How to Read’, the magical book that places Rohan on a path to healing, is inspired by Marcus Garvey’s essay of the same title, and was used with permission from his son Dr Julius Garvey, who has described the book as “exceptionally illustrated, wonderful, [and] therapeutic.”

Juleus Ghunta is adept at tackling difficult topics in children’s books. His first book, Tata and the Big Bad Bull, features a young protagonist faced with many of the issues that afflict vulnerable children: financial instability, bullying, lack of access to education. Like Tata and the Big Bad Bull, Rohan Bullkin and the Shadows is loosely based on Ghunta’s childhood. 

Ghunta says that “one of the main purposes of this book is to encourage people to have difficult conversations about childhood adversity and trauma. Toxic stress caused by ACEs such as physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, neglect, community violence, and extreme poverty is linked to many physical and mental illnesses and a wide array of social dysfunctions. Ghunta hopes the book “will inspire dialogue and help individuals and groups to begin their journeys toward trauma-informed healing and advocacy.”  

Rohan Bullkin and the Shadows has received significant praise from distinguished medical doctors, psychologists, writers and educators, and from key figures in the global positive and adverse childhood experiences (PACEs) movement. Author MJ Fievre says that “Rohan’s story is one of triumph over adversity.” Trauma therapist Veronique Mead, MD, finds the book “a vital new resource for professionals and others.” Literary critic Annie Paul says the book is “an imaginative intervention into the universal quest for literacy, knowledge, and healing,” and children’s rights advocate Michael Abrahams, MD, feels that it “should be required reading in all schools.”

Rohan Bullkin and the Shadows is published by CaribbeanReads. It will be released on December 31, 2021. Visit www.caribbeanreads.com/rohan to learn more about this book and to pre-order copies. For bulk orders, contact CaribbeanReads at [email protected]