Seventh grader Tristan Strong is down in the dumps. He has just lost his best friend as well as his very first boxing match. His parents send him off to Alabama to spend a month with his grandparents to cool off. There, he literally punches a hole in the sky and falls through earth into another dimension and the adventure of a lifetime!
THUMBS UP AND DOWN
UP: The world building, the setting and the characters particularly, the folktale heroes, Anansi!!!!, the 10” tall doll baby Gum Baby, the iron monsters, the haunted bone ships and the burning sea! I loved them! It’s an adventure story with some of my favourite Ms: magic and mythology. The specificity Mbalia uses to describe the setting is out of this world! The worldbuilding was extraordinary and I feel like this book is a good mentor text for writers on the subject of setting.
DOWN: A lot of description slowed the action down. Because life is what it is, the actual highlight of the novel was also its undoing. Oh my!!! The description was just too much. I feel like I was buried under a mountain of details. I have been trying to read this book for 8 weeks but I still haven’t made it halfway. It is unbelievably putdownable, in fact, 1 of 2 things happens each time I pick it up: I come up with something more interesting to do or I fall asleep. In summary, I still haven’t finished reading it but at this point, I honestly cannot. go. on. This will be the first time I am consciously abandoning a book halfway, I am sad and I really struggled to avoid this but …
It starts with a quest, because all books with elements of magic, mystery and mythology must have quests.
Zelie, her brother and their enemy-turned-friend, princess Amari go on a quest to bring magic back to Orïsha. Amari’s father, the tyrannical King of Orïsha, believes that magic is the source of all evil so he banishes magic. He destroys all the relics and temples of the gods and kills all the magi leaving the diviners. The diviners are children of magi who haven’t become magi and therefore have no magical powers. Years later, a scroll appears which awakens the magic in diviners.
The quest: Zelie and her crew must find and take three sacred items – the scroll, a dagger and a sunstone – to a sacred (disappearing) island that appears only during the summer solstice. There, they must recite the incantations on the scroll in the temple of the gods during the solstice or lose the chance to bring back magic to Orïsha forever.
THUMBS UP AND DOWN
UP: Everything! I loved absolutely everything about this book: the writing style, the imagery, the characters, the actual story, the world building, everything. I loved reading it, I know I’ll read it again, and I can’t wait to read Book 2 (it’s a trilogy by the way)!
It’s a masterpiece. What I loved about it?
A. West African Mythology. I loved reading Britannica as a child because it showed me the myths and legends of different parts of the world, Roman and Greek ones, etc. This book was my first foray into West African Mythology especially the Orïsha, so it hit all the right buttons! I loved learning about the gods of Yoruba mythology: Ori, Oya, Sango, Yemoja, Ogun! I loved it so much that I now want to do a course on West African Mythology because I want to learn and write about Igbo gods too. I loved the fact that it was set in Nigeria and i loved the use of a lot of Yoruba (which I can’t understand by the way).
B. The highlight of the book for me: The Setting!! The World building: the ten Maji clans and their different powers and deities; the animals (the leoponaries and panthernaires); Ibeji, the desert city, where the slaves fight to the death for the pleasure of nobles in an arena the size of the Roman Colosseum filled with (wait for it) water! Note that water typically goes for one gold piece per cup, a small fortune for the inhabitants of the city. Imagining Chândomblé, the lost temple of the sacred sentaros, the protectors of magic, almost brought tears to my eyes. Did I mention that I am a lover of medieval movies? I am. So it was so easy to imagine every little scene in this book.
C. The characters are relatable. The most fulfilling emotional arc was Amari’s. She went from a timid, scared-of-her-own-shadow little princess to an amazon at the end.
One thing is sure, Adeyemi is a wonderful storyteller and she had me enthralled from the first page until I finished the book, five days later. (This kids-at-home business won’t let me shine)
Here’s when we first get a taste of the power of magic in the hands of diviners.
Though Binta resists, Kaea pushes the scroll into her grip.
Light explodes from Binta’s hand.
It coats the throne room in its magnificence—brilliant golds, shining purples, sparkling blues. The light arcs and shimmers as it cascades, a never-ending stream erupting from Binta’s palm.
“Skies,” I gasp, terror at war with the awe bubbling inside my chest.
If I had to distil the highlights into three words, they would be Mythology, Magic, Medieval.
I strongly strongly recommend this book to everyone particularly lovers of history, mythology, and Nnedi Okoroafor’s books.
Note that this is a multiple award winning book and a New York Times Bestseller.
The story is phenomenal. It is an epic. Definitely my best book of this year.
DOWN: The only down (which wasn’t that serious really) was the fact that it was a bit hard to differentiate between the voices of the two female characters (i.e. Zelie and Amari). Many times, they basically sounded the same.
A little bit of science for toddlers. This book tells the story of a caterpillar’s journey to becoming a butterfly. But first the caterpillar eats through amazing fruits, veggies (and the book) until it becomes quite sick! Read this little package to your toddler to teach him about butterflies, fruits, days of the week, etc., in the most fun way possible!
THUMBS UP AND DOWN
UP: I LOOOOOVVVEEEEE this book!!!!! Using brilliant illustrations, this book shows toddlers how to count (from 1 to 5), some fruits (apples, pears, etc.), some food (cheese, cakes, sausages, etc.), some colors, days of the week (Monday to Sunday), and a little bit of science (the very hungry caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly at the end of the book!). The icing on the cake? The caterpillar eats through the pages of the book as it eats through the fruits in the book. I recommend this book for all kids aged 0 to 4!
This book is sold somewhere in the world every thirty seconds!
HAVE FUN WITH THIS BOOK
1. Team the reading experience with a visit to eric-carle.com
2. Watch a video here:
CHALLENGE: The Very Hungry Caterpillar
CREATE (WRITE a Story/Poem OR DRAW)
Draw and colour 4 (four) fruits found in Nigeria. (4 year olds)
Identify and colour the caterpillar (2-3 year olds)
This book takes young readers on a magical, colourful journey beginning with two words, ‘Press here’. It starts with a yellow dot which magically multiples with each, ‘press’ (really a rub) of the reader’s tiny fingers. The book enthralls the 1 – 4-year-old reader with commands to ‘press’ it, shake it, rub it, blow it, tilt it and watch the coloured dots change colour, multiply, fly and dance all over the pages. Guaranteed to keep your toddler entertained for ages.
Warning: You may read it over and over and over and over again in one sitting! Be prepared.
THUMBS UP AND DOWN
UP: It features the primary colours and colours are our theme for our 0 – 4 age group for the month of February! It helps kids build fine motor skills and introduces them to the concept of ‘action’ and ‘reaction’. Author, Hervé Tullet, is an artist so he knows how to literally and figuratively ‘play’ with colours! This is why this award-winning New York Times Bestseller is such a favourite with little children. Other titles by the same author, ‘Mix it Up’, ‘Let’s play’. I recommend for all 0 – 4-year-olds. It’s a sturdy book too so it will survive those little fingers.
Entry requirements: Entrants must be within the 2 – 4 age range. The first correct entry will be announced on this page and will win a copy of this book. Answers must be submitted before 12:00am on Tuesday February 7th 2017.