Palmer, C(yril) Everard 1930–
C(yril) Everard Palmer 1930–
C. Everard Palmer wrote a number of books for children, which were published between 1962 and 1981. Nearly all are set in the rural part of Jamaica where Palmer grew up, and depict a slower, more rooted way of life that has long since vanished. Palmer’s works include The Cloud with the Silver Lining and The Hummingbird People. An essay in St. James Guide to Children’s Writers described a typical literary setting in Palmer’s juvenile fiction: “The rise and fall of reputations, the feuds and the power struggles provide the plot dynamics, and each story culminates in a set-piece—a hurricane, a fire, a trial, or some village festivity—which re-affirms the bonds of the community. The stories have strong characterisation, racing narratives, and abundant and colourful detail.”
Palmer was born October 15, 1930, in Kendal, part of the parish of Hanover. Kendal, reached after a four-mile ascent up a hill road, is situated near Green Island and is 130 miles distant from Jamaica’s capital of Kingston. The Palmers, like the other families in the area, were subsistence farmers, and the writer recalled a pastoral childhood in which he rode donkeys, helped with farm chores like milking the cows, and played and fished in the coastal area’s rivers and streams. The books he later wrote for children evoked this way of life. “This is the period of my life which has meant the most to me,” Palmer told Something About the Author, “the period which is most vivid, the phase that I remember most clearly, the part I like to borrow from to create my stories.”
Yet Palmer also confessed in Something About the Author that “I believe one of the reasons I was pointed in the direction of writing lies in the fact that when I was young, I was too shy to speak and even when I spoke, I did it poorly.” An avid reader, he was a particular fan of Western novels, and began writing as a teen. At Mico Training College in the early 1950s, he enjoyed his first published success when he submitted a short story to the school’s magazine. Soon Palmer was writing fiction for Jamaica’s Sunday Gleaner.
After earning his teaching diploma in 1955, Palmer taught at Kendal High School. His first published work, a novel for adults titled A Broken Vessel, appeared in 1960. Then Palmer learned about a new program launched by Jamaica’s Ministry of Education to fund publication of books for Jamaican children that featured the island’s culture and history. He submitted
Born on October 15, 1930, in Kenciai, Jamaica; son of Cyril (a farmer) and Vida Palmer. Educa-tion: Mico Training College, Jamaica, teaching diploma, 1955; Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario, B.A., 1973.
Career: Daily Gleaner, Jamaica, journalist; teacher in Ontario, Canada, 1950s and 1960s; Red Rock, Ontario, teacher, after 1971.
Address: Home—2590 Argyle Road, #1109, Missis-sauga, Ontario L5B 1V3, Canada.
some story ideas, and The Adventures of Jimmy Maxwell, his first book for young readers, was published in 1962.
For a time in his career, Palmer worked for the Daily Gleaner, covering the crime beat in Kingston, but he eventually emigrated to Canada and taught in public schools there. He continued to write books for young readers set in rural Jamaica, such as The Cloud with the Silver Lining, a tale of two young boys who struggle to make ends meet on their family farm when their grandfather, who is their caretaker, is injured. In Big Doc Bitteroot, gullible villagers are awed by itinerant doctor Kelso Crane, but his physicians’ credentials are dubious, and in the end an accident brings him to trial. In The Sun Salutes You two men, Mike Johnson and Matt Southern, feud over a local trucking business; when Southern pays the police some bribe money, Johnson enlists the help of a local spiritual “guide,” Shepherdess Annie. The Hummingbird People is set in the aftermath of World War II, as three military veterans are about to return home to their small neighboring villages. Each community attempts to outdo itself in increasingly lavish festivities for the returning heroes.
The Wooing of Beppo Tate chronicles the courtship of Mr. Tate and Mrs. Belmont, and a secondary story follows the burgeoning romance between Mrs. Bel-mont’s daughter Daphne and Mr. Tate’s adopted son, Beppo. In A Cow Called Boy, Josh’s pet calf follows him to school one day and causes a stir. Baba and Mr. Big recounts the friendship between an older man and a hawk that visits him. My Father, Sun-Sun Johnson ventures into more emotionally-charged territory in its tale of a boy caught between his divorced parents. Rami sides with his father, in part because he dislikes his mother’s materially ambitious new husband.
Palmer has also written two books for younger readers, which are set in Canada, titled A Dog Called Houdini and Houdini, Come Home. In the first, the puppy Houdini is taken to his new home, a remote area near Lake Superior. He is destined to serve as a guard dog there, but is lonely in his new life and misses his litter siblings. One day he escapes and is adopted by a hunter, who renames him “Bubba.” When the man dies, Houdini/Bubba must fend for himself in the northern wilderness and becomes a hunter himself. During the summer season, however, he realizes that he can feed himself by snatching food from campers. When the season turns again, he lurks around a town in order to steal food there. The local animal control officer, determined to end what he considers a town nuisance, becomes the hunter, and Houdini/Bubba the prey. The dog is saved by a friendship with the officer’s son.
In November of 2001 Palmer returned to Jamaica and to the parish of Hanover to accept an award from its historical society and museum in recognition of his work as an author. An exhibition of his books also opened at the Hanover Museum. “This is extraordinary since nothing like this had ever happened to me,” he told Roy Sanford of the Jamaica Gleaner. “I have sneaked in and out of Jamaica many times before and now I find myself in the limelight. It is very overwhelming.”
A Broken Vessel (novel), Pioneer Press, 1960.
The Adventures of Jimmy Maxwell (juvenile), Jamaica Publications Branch of Ministry of Education, 1962.
The Cloud with the Silver Lining (juvenile; illustrations by Laszlo Acs), Deutsch, 1966, Pantheon, 1967.
Big Doc Bitteroot (juvenile; illustrations by Acs), Deutsch, 1968, Bobbs Merrill, 1971.
The Sun Salutes You (juvenile; illustrations by Acs), Deutsch, 1970, Bobbs Merrill, 1971.
The Hummingbird People (juvenile; illustrations by Acs), Deutsch, 1971.
A Cow Called Boy (juvenile; illustrations by Charles Gaines), Bobbs Merrill, 1972.
The Wooing of Beppo Tate (juvenile; illustrations by Acs), Deutsch, 1972.
Baba and Mr. Big (juvenile; illustrated by Lorenzo Lynch), Bobbs Merrill, 1972.
My Father, Sun-Sun Johnson (juvenile; illustrations by Acs), Deutsch, 1974.
A Taste of Danger, illustrations by Acs, Ministry of Education (Jamaica), 1976.
A Dog Called Houdini (juvenile; illustrations by Maurice Wilson), Deutsch, 1978.
Beppo Tate and Roy Penner; The Runaway Marriage Brokers: Two Stories, Deutsch, 1980.
Houdini, Come Home (juvenile; illustrations by Gavin Rowe), Deutsch, 1981.
Something About the Author, Volume 14, Gale, 1978.
St. James Guide to Children’s Writers, 5th edition, St. James Press, 1999.
Jamaica Gleaner, November 15, 2001.