Anyone who thinks children aren’t interested in breaking the mold has never met Vanae James-Bey. The 6-year-old and her mother, Veronica Bey, have developed a coloring book that is meant not only to entertain but to educate young children about Black indigenous cultures around the world.
“The Indigenous Adventures of Princess Vanae,” which went on sale March 31, explores the histories of native-born Black people in Africa and America and has been met with overwhelmingly positive reactions from those who bought the $12.95 book from PrincessVanae.com.
“We’ve received tons of positive feedback, with orders from Australia to Amsterdam,” Bey said. “Parents asking for one for boys are as negative as the feedback gets.”
Bey and her daughter, who both are originally from Florida, created the book with the help of Johnathan Ellerbee, Vanae’s uncle, who Bey said aided “tremendously” with the first sketches. They worked with artist Johanne Immis to finalize the images and give them a more digital look.
“I’m glad to share it with everyone,” Vanae said of the 20-page book.
Although it is geared toward children ages 5 through 13, Bey noted she also enjoys coloring with her children and remembered engaging in the activity with her mother as a child.
Dreaming Up Inspiration
In April 2016, Vanae, who lives in St. Thomas, V.I. with her mom, asked her uncle to draw a picture of her in some of her indigenous attire. Ellerbee ultimately spent a few days with his niece researching different cultures that interested her. To help with Vanae’s homeschool education, Ellerbee continued drawing her donning indigenous jewelry and clothing.
“Culture is very important to our family,” Bey said, “[As well as] knowing about our own indigenous roots. Being homeschooled, we tend to stick to a more Afrocentric curriculum and noticed how hard it was to find specific materials for lessons and how many other parents [and] students must feel the same.
“Vanae was naturally curious about history as she is exposed to tons of documentaries and both myself and her father are avid readers; she’s always around books.”
Vanae’s education-rich environment provided her with all the necessary tools to put an informative coloring book together, but she also had a desire to learn simply because she’s an inquisitive child.
“Like most children, once they learn one thing, they want to learn more and she’s at the age where everything is a question,” Bey said of Vanae, who is presently working at a second-grade level.
Why ‘Princess Vanae’ Matters
“Our family has indigenous American roots that we are in touch with and it’s always been important for them to know and understand that,” Bae explained. “More importantly, because we have friends whose children go to public schools and are taught that Native Americans are extinct or are only taught about slavery as Black history, I didn’t want that to be my children’s introduction to their history.”
Vanae says the reason why she hopes children will enjoy learning and being creative by using her coloring book is because “it will teach that Black history is from all different countries.”
Expanding Indigenous Adventures
The fun and education don’t stop with Princess Vanae, however. Bey said her daughter has more stories in the works, including some focused on young boys that Vanae’s older brother, Evrett James-Bey, will helm.
“We plan on making more volumes because we couldn’t fit all cultures into one,” Bey said. “Fiction books [are also on the way]. Wherever Black people are in the word as a distinct culture, we plan to explore them all.”