Nadia Aguiar

I was born and raised in Bermuda, a tiny island in the Sargasso Sea in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I've lived in Canada, London, and New York City, where I worked as an editor. I returned home several years ago, drawn back by the things I love the most: the sea that never looks the same from one hour to the next, the sight of magnificent storms rolling in across the open water, brilliant colors, balmy evenings that smell like salt and oleander, and the gentle din of the whistling frogs chirping outside the window each night.

My home now is a lot like Granny Pearl’s in the Tamarind books—a cottage with a garden that rolls down to a sheltered cove. Except that in my cove there’s no sailboat like the Pamela Jane at anchor, waiting restlessly for the children to set out on their adventures. There is a lot of life, though. Electric-turquoise parrotfish graze in the shallows, sometimes lifting a fin lazily into the air. Feisty damselfish dart around in big tide pools. Egrets and herons nest in the dim chambers of the mangroves, which are trees that grow in salt water. After not seeing land all winter, dazzling white tropical birds called longtails return in the spring and spend their days soaring above the coastal cliffs. From our rooftop we can see beyond the cove, out to the open ocean, and watch humpback whales playing at the surface as they migrate past. One day I looked up from washing dishes and through the open kitchen window I saw a great grey torpedo burst out of the water followed by an enormous white splash as one breached! 

The Tamarind books first came to me as a single image. I was living in New York City, deep in a dreary, never-ending winter, trudging through the grimy slush on my way to the subway, ducking icy blasts off the East River, when I began to imagine a wooden sailboat with a sunny yellow hull and crisp white sail. I felt the sun on my face and the warm deck underfoot, and heard the breeze rippling over the bright blue sea. I daydreamed about that boat every day, and soon began to see the family who lived aboard it—Maya, Simon, baby Penny, and their scientist parents. They often sailed to visit their grandmother, Granny Pearl, who lived in Bermuda. That imaginary sailboat became the Pamela Jane. She carried me out of New York and back home to Bermuda, where I wrote the first book and then the two that followed. 

I'm the eldest of four children, and I know how important it is that everyone in the family gets a turn. That’s what happens in the Tamarind books. As each child comes of age, they have their own story—first the eldest, Maya, then Simon, then Penny, who was only a baby in the first book. They learn to be strong and brave, to be both independent and to work together. Along the way they face pirates and the evil Child Stealer, escape a staggering waterfall and a monstrous whirlpool, make a great friend, Helix, and try to save the miraculous island they’ve come to love. 

I’ve deeply enjoyed spending the past few years in the lush, magical world of Tamarind, getting to see the children grow and change, and imagining all the exciting things that happen in their lives. I hope that their story will give you the same feeling that my favorite books gave me when I was young, when a novel had the power to transport me a million miles away in my own mind and the characters felt like friends, and I could spend a whole afternoon completely and happily lost in a faraway world.