Tag Archives: Nigerian Children’s Book Review Blog

30 TIPS for Writing Delightful Children’s Books Day 11


Shall I share one of the best kept secrets of truly unputdownable books? Yes?  Creating great scenes! Great scenes keep the reader hooked until the very end of a story. They are often one of the reasons why we find ourselves reading under the bed, with a tiny torch, deep into the night, in spite of the fact that we know we will wake up with the father of all headaches the next day.

How are these scenes created? By knowing and mastering the elements of the extraordinary scene.

They are:

  • setting,
  • the senses,
  • character development and motivation,
  • action,
  • dramatic tension and
  • scene intentions.

If these essential elements make it into every scene in your story, you are on your way to creating a truly memorable story.

NB: This list is a great tool for revisions too. Break your novel down into scenes and go through each scene to ensure that all the elements above are present.


  • Setting: Setting is described as encompassing a physical description of the place where the scene takes place and other characteristics such as the mood. Ensure that the setting of every scene is well spelt out. In Children of the Quicksands by Efua Traore, almost, if not every, single scene started with a paragraph on the setting. This was well done because these paragraphs immediately situate the reader in the character’s location in the story.
  • Senses: The senses breathe life into written words. This is true of all the senses other than sight and sounds. Surprise your readers! Use at least three senses at a time per scene, particularly the sense of smell! When describing the setting for example: describe the beauty of the flowers (sight) their scent (smell) their whispers as they swirl in the wind (sound), etc.
  • Action: This element is described as including both physical and emotional actions taken by characters. Your character must be in motion in every scene; physically or emotionally. They must have agency. These actions move the story from plot point to plot point.
  • Dramatic Tension: Best described in the dictionary as, “… a feeling of worry or excitement that you have when you feel that something is going to happen …’ (A. S. Hornby). It is achieved if the reader is faced with the unanswered question “What will happen next?” This question keeps the reader hooked until the last paragraph.
  • Character Development and or Motivation: A good scene also shows character development and or motivation. Why does your character perform certain actions in a particular scene? Is each new scene a natural progression from the previous scene?
  • Scene Intentions: Every good scene must contain the goal(s) of the scene. Why is this scene relevant to this story? What goal does it achieve? For example, if the scene is made up of a flashback, does the flashback show us why your character thinks the way she does?

NB: The Functions of a Good Scene

Effective scenes serve one or all of the following purposes:

  • reveal character,
  • advance the plot, and
  • create tension.

Here are some of my all-time favourite books for writing great scenes:

Picture Books

  • Anica Rissi, Love, Sophia on the Moon

Middle Grade

  • Efua Traore, Children of the Quicksands

Young Adult

  • Tochi Onyebuchi, Beasts Made of Night (the final scene was out-of-this-world. It gave me goose bumps! I highly recommend Onyebuchi’s book as a mentor text for writing scenes for MG and YA. He’s a scriptwriter after all!)

Craft Book

  • Jordan Rosenfield. Make a Scene, Crafting A Powerful Story, One Scene at a time.
  1. Action: Read like a Writer

Pick up some of your favorite books and try to figure out the elements the author utilized in each scene to make it stand out for you. Can you see any of the elements above?

2. Read.

So, want to write good scenes? Start reading mentor texts. You can start with some of the books on my list. 😊

Want to write a story for children, don’t know where to start? Tell me all about it and we can figure out the theme and some mentor texts for you!

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For more information: read my essay here:

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Half Hour Hara is here for Children’s Day!

Book Trailer: Share Me!

Children’s Day is almost here!

Have you bought gifts for all the children in your life: daughters and sons, goddaughters and sons, nieces and nephews?

How about School libraries? Orphanages? Children’s Church?

Half Hour Hara is here! Available at N1000 before Children’s Day!


English and Cognitive Development

– An exciting story

– Spot the Difference Puzzle

– Crossword puzzle


– Counting by 5s (digital clock)

– Telling the time (analog clock)

More Activities

-Recipes for the fried snacks and the eggless cake are available on my website

Available at Farafina Books at N1000 only (before Children’s Day)

Buy Now!!

While you’re here:

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Half Hour Hara is here!!

The first book in the Half Hour Hara series – The Case of the Broken Eggs – is about to hit bookstores near you!

The Half Hour Hara series is a picture book series for 5 to 7-year-old readers, set in Nigeria. It features Hara, a curious 6-year-old-girl who races against time in an exciting half hour countdown as she tries to avoid getting into trouble.

Read the blurb for Book One below.

Each book comes with activity pages: puzzles, spot-the-difference and more.

Available here or at http://www.farafinabooks.com

Giveaway coming soon. Watch this space…

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30 TIPS for Writing Delightful Children’s Books Day 7


Do you have to be a child to write for children? We can guess the answer to that one. Just look at Phillip Pullman, Enid Blyton, Mo Willems, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka.

Do you need to think like a child, see the world through the eyes of children, to be able to write for children? Definitely.

Can you imagine what it is like to be a child and then go off and write books for children without doing any proper research? Best not to try.

To create truly authentic, child-like characters who will resonate with young readers, you need to ‘be’ a child. So, what happens if you’re, like me, on the wrong side of 30 and very very far from childhood?

Here are some hacks:

1. Revisit childhood memories.

One of my all-time favorites. Childhood memories not only help you remember some of the things you did as a child but also how you ‘felt’ and processed information at the material time. Here is an exercise you can do.

Make a list of 5 experiences that shaped our childhood. They can be fights, heartbreak, friendships, first loves and crushes, competitions and prizes, deaths or losses, etc. Now write about these experiences. Things to keep in mind when you write:

  • What did you perceive with your senses: what did you see, hear, feel, taste, smell?
  • What did you feel or think?

2. Hang around children

Visit parks, spend time with your children or children of friends and family. Study them to determines their interests, speech patterns, what they find humorous, annoying or disgusting. Listen to them speak and act and take notes. Please, do not stalk or take pictures.

3. Be a ‘child’

Do you want to write for or about 7-year-olds? Try to see the world through their eyes. Spend an hour in your home, moving around on your knees so that you are about the height of a 6-8-year-olds. See what the world looks like at that level. What can you reach? See? Hear? How might the 7-year-old perceive these things? Watch cartoons, play games for children: video games, board games, etc. Notice the characters, plot, dialogue and setting in these cartoons and games, they give you insight into the likes and dislikes of your target audience.

1. Action: Pick one of the action points above and try it out.

2. Read.

And of course: Read as many children’s books as you can.

Want to write a story for children, don’t know where to start? Tell me all about it and we can figure out the theme and some mentor texts for you!

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Big News! I’m agented!!!

After 7 years of querying …

(well, that’s stretching the truth a bit. I did submit my first query in 2015 but i had a long dry no-queries-spell between 2016 and 2018)


Check me out:


I am so excited! Are you ready? Lynnette and I are about to make magic!!!

For more updates, follow me on twitter here:

Igbo Folktales and Contemporary Picture Books … what’s the connection?

In this short presentation, I look at the core elements of Igbo folktales and how they can be recreated in contemporary picture books.  


Four Essential Components of Igbo Folktales

  1. Structure: 4 parts: Beginning, Conflicting Action, Resolution/End and Moral Lesson
  2. Characters: Flat or One-dimensional.
  3. Refrain: Recited or Sung for audience participation, entertainment, emphasis.
  4. Moral Lesson: Like biblical parables, they encourage good behaviour and decry bad behaviour.


Donaldson,  Julia, and Axel Scheffler. Room on the Broom. Puffin Books, 2003.

Donaldson,  Julia, and Axel Scheffler. The Gruffalo. Puffin Books, 2006.

Ewata, Thompson Olusegun, Titilade Adefunke Oyebade, and Inya Onwu. “Generic Structure Potential of Some Nigerian Folktales.” International Journal of English Language and Linguistics Research, 2018, 6 (2) 73 – 87.

Herumun, Wendy. “The Issue of Authenticity in Children’s Literature As It Relates to Folktales: How Should the Story be Told?” Critical Thesis, Summer/Fall 2001. Vermont College of Fine Arts Commons.

Mora, Oge. Saturday. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019.

Mora, Oge. Thank You, Omu. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

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Sneak peek of Half Hour Hara at the 2021 AKADA Children’s Book Festival

Half Hour Hara at the 2021 Akada Children’s Book Festival

I am excited to announce to you that I will be speaking at this year’s Akada Children’s Book Festival, themed “My Happy Place” holding on the 1st -3rd of July, 2021.
The Akada Children’s Book Festival (ACBF) is a fun event to showcase children’s books written by African authors, or books written by authors around the world for a diverse audience of children. Think: Bunmi Aboderin Talabi, Jude Idada, Ayo Oyeku, Yejide Kilanko, Nnenna Ochiche and more …😁 There is also a free writing workshop by accord Literary’s finest: Sarah Odedina and Deborah Ahenkorah!!

Do you know the almost best part? It’s an online event. You can join in from wherever you are on the globe and it is absolutely free. All you need to do is register at akadafestival.org

The best part, on Saturday July 3rd at 1pm, you will get a sneak peek of my book, ‘The Case of the Broken Eggs’, the first book in the Half Hour Hara series!!

See you there!”

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Juba and the Fireball

Title: Juba and the Fireball

Author: Yejide Kilanko

Publisher: Narrative Landscape Press; Ayoka Books

Number of pages: 35

Type of Book: Fiction; African

Age: 4 – 8

Available here: https://narrativelandscape.com/product/juba-and-the-fireball/ ; https://www.konga.com/product/juba-and-the-fireball-by-yejide-kilanko-5096161; https://www.amazon.co.uk/Juba-Fireball-Yejide-Kilanko/dp/1999292073 

Price: N2000, N2000; 9GBP


‘Anger burns like fire. If you don’t control the flames, they will consume you.’

Juba has a terrible temper. He constantly gets in fights, breaks precious things and makes his mum sad. Will he learn to overcome his anger or will it consume him?

Juba and the Fireball is a warm and delightful tale about a little boy’s struggle with anger, personified as a fireball that lives in his stomach.


UP: I absolutely loved the illustration of the fireball. I was thrilled to pieces by the stories Juba’s dad told him and the way he told them and the relationship between his parents. Kilanko has a way with emotions. Again, as she did with “There Is An Elephant In My Wardrobe”, Kilanko breaks down a difficult emotion that many children struggle with and proposes a successful and mindful way of dealing with it. She also helps parents understand what children go through when they are consumed by anger. Her dialogue is realistic. I found myself laughing on the first page at the exchange between Juba and his mother. They could have been my son and I. J

Juba’s father is one of the highlights of this book for me. One of my favourite lines from the book was his:

“When people give us the gift of their forgiveness,

we honour it with changed behaviour”

He reminds me very much of my grandfather. He is a sage and he doles out nuggets of wisdom through proverbs and stories. This book also features the story within a story structure and several poetic devices which make it lyrical. The alliterative ‘s’ sound is a common feature throughout the book. It is definitely a must-read for children. More and more books which discuss negative emotions and how to overcome them must be made for children. Kilanko does a great service to humanity with her books.  

DOWN: None


4 stars


  1. Ask your child to tell you three things they can do to calm down when they are angry. Brainstorm some good ideas: reading, exercising, counting breaths, singing, etc.


  1. Help your child cope with anger: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/children-and-young-adults/advice-for-parents/help-your-child-with-anger-issues/

CHALLENGE: Juba and the Fireball


  1. Write a short story about a time when you were ngry and how you overcame it. (100 words)

Send your answers to ugochinyelu.anidi@gmail.com

Entry requirements: Entrants must be within the 4 – 8 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 Sunday, July 2nd  2021 

Next Book of the Week:

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

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photo credit: narrativelandscape press

The Secret of the Purple Lake

Title: The Secret of the Purple Lake

Author: Yaba Badoe

Publisher: Cassava Republic Press, 2017

Number of pages: 122

Type of Book: Short stories, fiction, adventure, myths and legend.

Genre: Middle Grade

Age: 8 – 12

Buy it here: The Bookworm Café; https://cassavarepublic.biz/product/the-secret-of-the-purple-lake/ ; https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Purple-Lake-Yaba-Badoe/dp/1911115316   

Price: N1800, N1500; $3.99


The Secret of the Purple Lake is a collection of five interwoven, wildly adventurous stories set in the roaring seas and disappearing castles of Africa and Europe (think Ghana, Spain) and featuring characters with mythical origins and magical powers. It begins with the story of Ajuba, a young girl in Ghana who must undertake a perilous journey under the sea to recover her dead father’s bones and bring them home.


UP: This was a very exciting read for me for many reasons. First of all, I am a fan of stories with magic and adventure. Two, I had never read a short story collection quite like it. The craft element I found really appealing was the weaving together of several stories and this was not done in the form of parallel stories but using stories that happened through the span of two centuries. The major highlight was trying to discover how the stories were linked. Other highlights included the story of the fish-man, a scary creature with the body of a man and the head of a fish, Imoro the magic elephant, the walrus prince and of course, the Eagle-Queen. The characters are immediately likeable or totally despicable. I also absolutely loved the use of lyrical language.

‘Flying within the clouds is like dancing on vapour and gliding above them feels like kissing the Sun.’”

DOWN:  When I picked it up, I assumed it was a middle grade adventure (that is, one story and not a collection of stories) so when I started reading the first story, I felt cheated many times because I felt the writer was in a hurry and therefore wasted the opportunity to clearly describe things to me in a way that would make me connect more to her story. By the time I got to the end of the first story I was a bit puzzled, I felt like I had just read the outline of a middle grade adventure rather than a full-fledged short story.


🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟


  1. Watch the author read from the book here:

CHALLENGE: The Secret of the Purple Lake


  1. Write three interwoven stories.  (500 words each)

Send your answers to ugochinyelu.anidi@gmail.com.

Entry requirements: Entrants must be within the 8 – 12 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 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, June 27th 2021.

Next Book of the Week:


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Hello Universe

Title: Hello Universe 

Author: Erin Entrada Kelly

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Number of pages: 320

Type of Book: Fiction, adventure, drama, contemporary

Genre: Middle Grade

Age: 8 – 12

Buy it here: https://www.amazon.com/Hello-Universe-Erin-Entrada-Kelly/dp/0062414151

Price: $10.49


This heartwarming tale follows the lives of 4 very different kids with distinct loveable traits, Virgil (the shy one), Valencia (the courageous, deaf one), Kaori (the self-acclaimed psychic) and Chet (the bully). Virgil, the protagonist, is a shy, often bullied, middle grader with one fervent wish, to find the courage to talk to the girl of his dreams, Valencia. To achieve this goal, he enlists the help of another middle grader, Kaori. When Virgil sets off for his meeting with Kaori, he comes across Chet, his nemesis, and as a result, finds himself trapped in an abandoned well, deep in the woods. Faced with the horrible fate on never getting out of the well, he must reach inside himself to find the strength to overcome his fears …


UP: As you may have already guessed, I am not a fan of contemporary fiction but this was a delight to read. It has little bits of adventure, humour, tragedy, light romance, great pacing and suspense! I decided to read it because sometime last month, everyone in the #kidslit community was talking about it. I love it because it didn’t disappoint at all. In fact, it surpassed expectations. It was so good that I totally forgot to read as a writer until I was half way through.

I loved the use of multiple perspectives! First, the story was told from the point of view of four different characters, then 3 out of those characters had their stories told in third person while one, Valencia’s, was told in first person using the present tense. It was executed to perfection and each character’s voice was distinctive.

I absolutely loved learning about Filipino culture and folktales. I also really enjoyed the fact that the characters were strikingly diverse; there’s a Japanese-American, a Filipino-American and one with a hearing defect. In Hello Universe, Erin Entrada Kelly celebrates friendship and overcoming one’s fears. Having Virgil, Valencia and Kaori find themselves in the end was nothing short of beautiful. I love happy endings! The last line was absolutely heartwarming. I almost cried! I highly recommend this one.

Note that this book won a NEWBERY!

DOWN: It had a sagging beginning problem! The first few chapters were quite slow! It also did lean heavily towards fate and the powers of the universe and Ouija boards and the like. Not my cup of tea.  


🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟


  1. Read an excerpt here: https://preview.aer.io/Hello_Universe-MjQwMDQ=?social=0&retail=0&emailcap=0

CHALLENGE: Hello Universe 


  1. Read the excerpt using the link above, then write your own ending. (500 words)

Send your answers to ugochinyelu.anidi@gmail.com.

Entry requirements: Entrants must be within the 8 – 12 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 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, June 13th 2021.

Next Book of the Week:


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photo credit: Amazon