Idia was an ordinary little girl who had an extraordinary dream about a brave female warrior with magical healing powers. Curious, she begged her father to teach her how to be a warrior and her mother to teach her the art of magic and medicine. Little did she know that she would become the brave warrior in her dream as well as the first Queen mother of the ancient Benin Kingdom. Read this story of perseverance and courage to learn about the history of one of Africa’s most illustrious queens.
THUMBS UP AND DOWN
UP: I have read quite a bit on Queen Idia as I mentioned in an earlier post but I have never read a book about her childhood so I absolutely loved this one. The author used sprinkles of rhyme and repetition and lots of lyrical language to make this picture book a great read. Blending fact and fiction, she described the life – particularly the childhood – of Queen Idia with some detail and quite a bit of flair.
One of my favourite paragraphs:
People buzzed with excitement in the center of the village. The Oba (King) was there. Hands slapped drums. Fires were started to cook the feast. Idia adjusted her beads and greeted all her friends.
The illustrations blew my mind. They are vibrant, detailed, apt, evocative and sublimely different from the norm, they truly gave life to the words and made the book shine!
I also loved the use of Edo words. The icing on the cake was the historical factsheet at the end of the book. I loved everything about this book and I would highly recommend it for lovers of Edo culture and their children. 😀
🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟
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Afuwe nearly gets eaten by an owl on his birthday!!! Naturally, he’s terrified and decides he doesn’t like being small. So when Tortoise gives him a magical birthday present which grants 5 wishes, his ultimate wish is to be the greatest animal in the jungle so he can be all powerful.
THUMBS UP AND DOWN
UP: It’s funny and action packed, 2 of my favourite ingredients in any book. Afuwe is such a lovable character and he is so relatable. Sope Martins is great with words and imagery. Afuwe’s fear when the owl chases him is so palpable. With a few words, Martins draws readers in, sucking us into Afuwe’s world so that we sweat with Afuwe in the beginning, and laugh with him at the end and she does this with less than 1000 words!
My kids love it!! B3 tries to read it every night. We laughed and laughed at Afuwe antics and I am sad because I really cannot share the joy this book gave us without putting up lots and lots of spoilers. Take it from us, this is a GREAT BOOK to give as a Christmas present!!
This book is the fourth in a chapter book series about Ancient Africa. In this book, Obi and Titi must warn Queen Kehinde that she is in imminent danger but their plans are continuously thwarted by assassins. With the help of a masked rider who turns out to be a young girl named Idia (named after Queen Idia) and her mask which helps her see a few minutes into the future, Obi and the Titi must overcome the tyrant Ezomo and a giant man-eating spider to get to the Queen.
THUMBS UP AND DOWN
UP: I struggled to find the highlights of this book because I was a bit offended by the disservice to Queen Idia. It was well-written and easy to read. It had some humourous bits and it does give a bit of insight into life in Ancient Yoruba land. It has all the makings of a good adventure series and would have been much better if it had left the African part out of it, rather than giving ambiguous information. It features a mini vocabulary list and another list of African facts.
DOWN: I struggled to get to the end of this book because I don’t know how to abandon a book halfway. I had bought this with the hope of adding to my research library on Queen Idia but I was sorely disappointed. First of all, Queen Idia was mentioned in about 8 out of 120 pages and the mask was a piece of wood with magical powers. I also feel like the facts were mixed up. Young readers will not be able to tell which bits of the story were fiction and which were nonfiction and the academic in me found that really stressful. There was a lot of telling and not enough showing but I guess I was particularly annoyed because I have a great deal of respect for Queen Idia and what the pendant mask represents and this book just basically trampled all over her. Matters came to a head when I found grammatical errors.
MY SUMMARY This is a book of 3 stories which feature tiny Tola who lives in the slums of Lagos with her grandmother and siblings. In all 3 stories, where she battles with power outage, lack of water, helping Abdul the tailor and going shopping at the famous Mile 12 Market, Tola shows her family and friends that even though she’s small, she’s mighty.
THUMBS UP AND DOWN UP: I absolutely absolutely loved the illustrations by Onyinye Iwu. They were the major highlight. Vibrant and apt, they complemented the story perfectly and brought the characters to life. They would have been even more wonderful if they were coloured.
The stories were delightful. I loved the fact they give readers a sneak peak into life in Lagos, especially, the hustle and bustle of daily life. I loved the reference to kerosene lanterns, battling with electricity, fetching water with jerry cans and of course, the famous Mile12 Market. I particularly liked the bit about Tola’s Grandma’s earrings which were left to her by her own grandmother (Tola’s great great grandmother). It made me smile.
One line that made me laugh was the description of one of Tola’s neighbours: ‘ … as tough as stockfish.’ 😀
DOWN: The stories were a bit flat, in the sense that they lacked ‘engaging’ conflict. Basically, the book is quite ‘putdownable’ and may not win the fight against TVs and tablets.
In a few places, the book reads like it was written by a non-Nigerian. Phrases like ‘Okada taxi’ irked me.
RATING 🌟 🌟 🌟
CHALLENGE: TOO SMALL TOLA CREATE (WRITE a Story/Poem OR DRAW)
Describe your street using all your five senses. (7 – 9 year olds)
Send your answers to email@example.com
Entry requirements: Entrants must be within the 7 – 9 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, October 18th 2020.
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.
In this book, little ones learn about the origin of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. They meet Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the shepherds and the three wise men. They also catch a glimpse of the later life of Jesus through the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand and the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Ultimately, they learn how Jesus came to the world to die that all of us may be saved.
THUMBS UP AND DOWN
UP: This book is one of the titles in the Bible Stories Category of the Read Along with Me Series, a series devoted to introducing toddlers to the joy of reading using picture words. Picture words are little pictures of characters and other things in the book, used in place of words and scattered between the words in the book. How this works: In the course of reading, you pause and point at the words, so that your toddler can ‘see’ the picture and ‘say’ the word. The series has different categories (Classics, Bible Stories, Nursery Rhymes) with at least five titles each.
This is a lovely Christmas present for a baby/toddler/little munchkin because he/she gets to read along while learning about the birth and love of Jesus. They’re quite reasonably priced too! Other books in the Bible Stories category of this series include Noah and the Ark, Moses and the Bulrushes, Stories Jesus Told.
DOWN: Two thirds of the book focused on the birth of Jesus and a very small third was dedicated to the rest of his life. Therefore, the last few pages seemed a bit (for want of a better word) ‘weak’ as the writer tried unsuccessfully to cram the rest of Jesus’ life into 6 pages. I imagine the book would have been much better if it had been left simply as the birth story of Jesus Christ. It was a good book all the same.
A picture word guide/glossary is included in the inside back cover of the book.
This time, the tumble down the tunnel wasn’t so bad. She was still slammed into the walls of the tunnel over and over again but the wind wrapped around her body like a soft cushion, shielding it from the hard walls of the tunnel. Ada squeezed her eyes shut and screamed all the way down. Suddenly, the tunnel threw her up with a giant belch and she landed on her bum smack in the middle of a forest. She opened her eyes slowly. There were giant trees all around her. Some tall and skinny, some tall and fat enough to be a house, some with lush green leaves, some without. All of them seemed to be trying to touch the sky and for the longest time, they all seemed to be dancing as they swam before her eyes. Shaking away the feeling of dizziness, she got up slowly, dusted her clothes and turned around to explore when whoosh! Something heavy rammed into her from behind and she fell flat on her face. Zigi’s square glasses landed next to her right cheek.
“Phew! Sometimes the tunnel ride is even more fun than the sight!”
He felt on the ground, right next to her eye for his glasses, picked them up, put them on and rose. “Here …” he offered her his hand “Get up, we don’t have a lot of time”
Ada spat a blade of wet grass out, ignored his hand and stood. “At least say sorry”.
“For what?” He perched his glasses on his nose.
“You knocked me down! You could have hurt me badly”
“No, the wind knocked me down and I fell on you. So blame the wind”
“Oomph!” Ada stormed off.
“Careful, there are man-eating vines ahead and scary steps!” he shouted at her back. She kept walking. “There are two bottomless pits too! You can fall to your death!”
Ada stopped instantly. He ran up to her, grabbed her hand and started walking. “Sorry. Can you hear the birds?”
Ada listened and then she heard the distinct harmonious chirping of birds. It sounded like they were whistling one song in unison.
“There are many types of birds here. Bird watchers come here a lot.”
He dragged her through the lush green forest to a narrow path going downhill with wet slippery steps covered with a bed of green leaves and bracketed on both sides by hundreds of green and brown hairy vines.
“Come” he tugged at her hand. “We have to hurry. There’s a lot to see and we have to get back to school soon. Hold on to the vines”
He led her carefully but quickly down the path. They had walked for about ten minutes when suddenly the sound of thunder claps filled the air.
Ada stopped and pulled her hands out of his. “What’s that?!”
“Come on! It’s the waterfall, we’re almost there” he grabbed her hand again and continued walking.
But the thunderous sound seemed to be coming closer and closer.
Ada stopped. “I want to go back! I don’t like that sound! It’s scary. I want to go back”
“I thought you wanted to see a waterfall! Some of them are really loud!! This one is one of the loud ones. It’s the sound of the falling water! Don’t worry, it’s just water, Come!”
“No! She turned around and started walking back up the hill.
“I promise. It’s not scary! It just really loud but it’s not scary. And you’ll take a picture to show Iphie and her friends!”
“Ada, just imagine the look on Iphie’s face when she sees your picture. But you can’t take the picture if you go back now and without a picture, no one will believe you!”
She turned around.
“Good! We’re almost there” He grabbed her hand and ran so she wouldn’t change her mind.
The sound of the water was almost ear-piercing now. Ada swallowed and started trembling. Maybe I should just go back.
As if Zigi heard her, he stopped. “We’re here. Close your eyes.”
Ada stopped and squeezed her eyes shut immediately. Then she blocked her ears with her hands too. Zigi grabbed her elbow. They took twenty steps and stopped.
Ada opened her eyes slowly, trying to get used to the bright light in the room. She rubbed her head and swayed on her feet. The slide down the twisted tunnel made her head spin. It was worse than a roller coaster ride, she felt like she had been tossed around over and over again in a giant blender.
Slowly she made out the shape of a boy in front of her. “Who are you?”
He was about her height, he wore square glasses and he was completely bald, like a chicken without feathers! He just stared right back at her. She rubbed her head again and looked around.
“What is this place?”
It was much like the library upstairs, but the books were older, browner, bigger and the room was brighter, dustier, deserted.
The boy with no hair smiled. “This is the Room of Knowledge”
He took her hand pulling her towards the center of the room. “You wanted to learn about waterfalls right? Come, I’ll show you”
He stopped at a shelf labelled W and he pulled an old dusty brown book from the stack of books on one of the rows. “Come, help me”
Ada held one end of the book and together they pulled the large book off the shelf and onto the floor. The boy sat cross-legged in front of the book and tapped the space next to him. Ada looked at him and then the shelf and then the mouth of the tunnel.
“My name is Zigi. Break will be over in 30 minutes. If you want to see the waterfalls, sit down, we don’t have time”
Zigi flipped the pages of the book. All of a sudden, sounds of thrashing water filled the room. Ada sat up and looked around but Zigi kept flipping the images.
“Can’t you hear that?”
“What?” He looked up and looked around, his large eyeballs turning in his face. They heard nothing. Ada was confused. He flipped another page. The sound came again, louder this time.
“Oh, that!” Zigi smiled and turned back to the book. He kept flipping pages until he got to the page he wanted. “Now look”
Ada jumped up “You heard it right? What’s happening?”
“Look!!!” Zigi shouted pointing at the book.
Then Ada looked at the book. There were pictures of huge waterfalls splayed across the pages. Ada stared at the book, then at Zigi. The sounds seemed to be coming from the waterfalls in the book! She shook her head and took two steps back.
“Zigi. What’s that? What kind of book is that? What is this place? I want to go”
Zigi smiled and flipped the pages some more. More pictures of waterfalls came up and the volume of the sounds that filled the room, seemed to rise and fall depending on the size of the waterfalls on the pages. “These waterfalls are in Nigeria! There are so many and this book shows all of them. It tells you everything you need to know about all of them. But do you know the best part?” he stopped, looked at her and smiled harder. “It takes you to all of them”
“What do you mean?”
Ada took a step forward and stared at the strange book. The pages seemed to come alive. She stared at the waterfall closest to her. It was called Agbokim Waterfalls. It was beautiful she thought. She could hear the sounds from the waterfall. A gust of wind flung her plaits across her face.
“Touch it” Zigi said “Touch it”
Ada looked at him, then the book. Slowly, she walked towards Zigi, she knelt next to the book and touched the page. Suddenly a hole appeared where her finger had been and a violent gust of wind rose from its mouth and sucked her into the page!
It was the biggest library she had ever seen. Rows and rows of books from the floor all the way up to the ceiling. Just books! Small books, big ones, flat ones, thick ones, old ones, new ones, hardbacks, paperbacks! She had never seen so many books in one place at the same time. Her old school’s library was a small dark room with two white plastic tables, six white plastic chairs and twenty-three old books. Ada stood on a spot and spun, staring at all the books in the topmost shelf, her neck bent backwards so much that it looked like it would break. Then she looked down at the rest of the library. Where was her mystery writer, Z? She looked around. There were so many shelves, she didn’t know where to start from.
How can anyone find anyone in this place? she wondered. She looked at the note again. It didn’t say where she was supposed to meet Z. She started walking through the shelves, looking at the letter boxes at the top of each shelf.
“A .. B .. C .. D .. ”
Four shelves and four minutes later, no one walked up to her and no one had said anything to her. Ada looked at the note in her hand again. This time, she studied it wondering if she had missed something.
“Hmmm. Why are the 12 and L darker than the other letters?”
She looked up at the huge clock on the wall. It was 11:58 am. Just beneath the clock, there was a huge chart with the alphabets and numbers 1 -20. Suddenly, Ada’s eyes popped and she knew where she was supposed to meet Z.
She folded the note, pushed it into her pocket and hurried towards the center of the library. Just as she stopped in front of the shelf marked 12 L, a loud bang shook the library! Ada jumped and turned away from the shelf looking around. Everyone else seemed calm, like nothing happened. Then the bang came again and again and again.
Oh! It’s only the clock she thought. It’s 12 o’clock!
She heaved a sigh of relief and counted with the clock.
“ … 7.. 8.. 9.. 10.. 11.. 12 ..”
Then from no where, two hands came out of the shelf 12 L, covered her mouth and dragged her into the darkness!