Review: A Visit to Grandad: An African ABC by Sade Fadipe

A Visit to Grandad An African ABC by Sade Fadipe

A Visit to Grandad: An African ABC by Sade Fadipe, illustrated by Shedrach Ayalomeh (9781911115816)

On an alphabet adventure, Adanah heads out to visit her grandfather in Modakeke, Nigeria. The book starts in school with Adanah heading on break. She packs her bags and camera. Her Dad drives her to her grandad’s house out in the country with lots of animals around. The two of them spend time together, having lunch that is invaded by insects, drinking juice, and cleaning the kitchen. At night, Adanah sleeps under a mosquito net. Water is fetched in kegs, more work and cooking is done, and stories are told in the evening. Finally, Mom is there to take Adanah back home to share her adventures with her little sister, Zainab.

This alphabet book works really well as it shows life in modern Nigeria. It is that exploration of Nigeria that really shines in this book, allowing readers to see a fascinating mix of modern and traditional parts. The strong structure of the alphabet helps keep the book focused and while X will always be for something like xylophone almost none of the other letters are a stretch at all. The text feels free and unforced, which is impressive in this sort of book.

The art is bright and fresh, filling the pages with color and glimpses of home life and the landscape. On each page, there are other items that start with that same letter of the alphabet. The art is structured so well though, that it is easy to miss that these elements are even there until you are encouraged to look for them at the end of the book.

An alphabet picture book focused on family and Africa. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Cassava Republic Press.

Book Review: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

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Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Sunny is a 12-year-old who lives in Nigeria.  She was born in the United States, but that isn’t what makes her so different from her classmates.  Her albino skin and hair does that.  Sunny is also a great athlete, but she can’t play because her sun reacts so strongly to the sun.  She only gets to play when her brothers agree to play with her in the evening.  Sunny isn’t sure she will ever fit in, but after meeting Orlu and ChiChi, the three of them figure out why Sunny is so special.  She’s a free agent, a member of the Leopard People, allowing her to do juju or magic.  Happily, Orlu and ChiChi are also Leopard People, though not free agents.  Suddenly Sunny is immersed in a new dual life.  Her old life of school and family and her new life learning about juju.  But there is also darkness in her life, as a serial killer preys upon children in Nigeria: a killer who has a special connection to Sunny.

This book is incredible.  Okorafor has created a completely unique and entirely formed world within a world.  She brings modern Nigeria to life and then within it creates an entire society that makes sense, wields magic, and continually surprises and delights.  The construct of the magical society doesn’t linger on the how, rather it is presented as a fully-formed world complete with its own laws, own priorities, and a matter-of-fact relationship to death.

The characters of the four young people in the book are well written and play nicely off of one another.  I particularly enjoyed when they would depart from roles that could have been stereotypical and instead revealed themselves to be very well-rounded characters.  Sunny serves as an ideal person for the readers to learn about the magical world alongside.  She is interested, questioning and frank.  She is a very strong female protagonist who can play soccer better than the boys. 

If you have teens or tweens looking for magical reads that break into a whole new territory, this book is for them.   It celebrates Nigeria, magic and learning.  Appropriate for ages 11-14.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking Publishing.

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