Tag Archives: Nnedi Okoroafor

30 TIPS for Writing Delightful Children’s Books Day 4


What is the difference between a book that stays on the Bestseller list for years and the one that is dumped after the first three chapters? What is the difference between the book that keeps you up all night, flipping the pages, when you have 1001 things to do and the one that you need to be bribed to read? What is the difference between the truly memorable and unputdownable books and the bleh ones?

5 elements!!!

Like a good pot of soup, every story needs some essential ingredients (elements) to create a memorable sensory feast for the consumer. Can you imagine making tomato stew without tomatoes? 😊 In the same way, you cannot create a good story without these elements.

Here they are: The five MUST-HAVE elements of a good story.
Character: Every good story must have a character or characters. These are the persons, animals, creatures or things who perform the action in the story. Our stories revolve around them. There are two main types: the main character(s) (the protagonist) and the supporting character(s) (secondary and tertiary characters). You can have multiple main and supporting characters. 

Plot: In simple terms: What happens in your story? The plot is the series of related actions that make up your story. What happens to the characters in your story? What do they do?

Setting: Three things to consider: Place, Period and Mood. Place: Is your story set in Nigeria, Japan, your village? Earth, Mars, an imaginary world? What about the period: 2000 years BC, 3014 AD, the 16th century? Some place where time means nothing? Mood: Is the atmosphere ominous? dark? hopeful? peaceful? tense?

Theme: This is the heart of your story. The story itself. Often the reason why readers will love your book and return to it over and over again. What universal truth does your story proclaim? Love conquers all? One good turn deserves another? Unity in diversity?

Point of View (POV): Who is telling the story? A narrator? The main character? The main character and several supporting characters? Or wait for it!! The narrator, the main character and the supporting characters? How is this person telling the story? Are they talking to themselves? Talking to another character? Telling a story or talking directly to the reader? There are 3 types of POV: First, Second and Third person point of view.

Other important elements:

Humour: Is your story humourous? If yes, what type: dark? satirical? ironic? hyperbolic? Juvenile? The Magnificent Mya Tibbs by Crystal Allen
Literary Devices: Do you employ literary devices to make your words sing or to make your story lyrical? The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
Scenes: Are the scenes in your story action packed? Do they have a clear goal and a beginning, middle and end? Love, Sophia on the Moon by Anica Rissi
Poetry: Is your story in verse: that is, structured like a poem? Is it free verse or does it rhyme? Star Fish by Lisa Fipps
Structure: What is the layout of your story? Does it use the rule of threes? Is it a parallel story featuring 2 stories playing out at the same time? Meanwhile Back at the Ranch by Trinka Noble. Does it feature the 3 or 4 act structure? Or the hero’s journey? Is it an epistolary? Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School by Mark Teague

1. Action: Identify these 5 elements in the books you love

Is there a book you have read more than once? Yes? That’s the one you need. 😊 
a.	Identify the 5 elements in this book
b.      Figure out how the author used these elements to make this book memorable.

2. Read.
Here are some of my favourites:
For characters: Children of Blood and Bone (YA) by Tomi Adeyemi: Prince Inan and Amari and The Junie B Jones Series (CB) by Barbara Parks: Junie B Jones.
Note that books with memorable characters will most likely be part of a series. Memorable characters form the backbone of most series. 

For setting: Zahrah the Windseeker (MG) by Nnedi Okoroafor and Amari and the Night Brothers (MG) by B. B. Alston; Tristan Strong Punches A Hole in the Sky (MG) by Kwame Mbalia

For Theme: How To Find What You’re Not Looking For (MG) by Veera Hiranandani and Echo (MG) by Pam Munoz Ryan

For POV: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (PB) by Mo Willems and Hello Universe (MG) by Erin Entrada Kelly

For Plot: Holes (MG) by Louis Sachar and All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team (MG Nonfiction) by Christina Soontornvat

Some of these books ticked multiple boxes for me. 

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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30 Tips for Writing Delightful Children’s Books Day 3


Let’s talk about genres. Children’s books have been divided into so many genres and categories that it is so hard to keep up. But here are the major ones.

NB: This post features children’s books by Nigerian authors.


Picture Books

Heavily illustrated; ages 3 – 8; 100 – 1000 words

Greatest Animal in the Jungle by Sope Martins

Juba and the Fireball by Yejide Kilanko

Mayowa and the Masquerades by Lola Shoneyin

Early Chapter Books

Illustrated; ages 4/5 – 8; 1000 – 3000 words

Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke

Feyi Fay and the Mysterious Madam Koi Koi by Simisayo Brownstone

Chapter books

Few Illustrations; ages 6 – 9; 5000 – 20,000 words

Mafoya and the Finish Line by Ayo Oyeku

No 1 Car Spotter by Atinuke

Middle Grade:

Rarely illustrated; ages 8 – 12; 25,000 – 50,000

A-Files by Victoria Afe Inegbedion

Akata Witch/What Sunny Saw in the Flames by Nnedi Okoroafor

Mirror on the Wall by Jesutofunmi Fekoya

Young Adult

Almost never illustrated; ages 13+ ; 40,000 – 100,000 words

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi

Other genres:

Concept Books

Diary of a Toddler by Olubunmi Aboderin Talabi

A Fun ABC by Sade Fadipe


Mouth Almighty by Salihah Agbaje

Graphic Novels

Anike Eleko by Sandra Joubeaud and Alaba Onajin


1897: Okiojo’s Chronicles Series


My Nigeria, Peoples, Places and Culture by Constance Omawumi Kola-Lawal

Social Justice Books

Eno’s Story by Ayodele Olofintuade

The Red Transistor Radio by Fatima Akilu



Ginika’s Adventures by Nnenna Ochiche

The Adventures of Obi and Titi: Queen Idia’s Mask


Illesanmi Twins Series. Book #1 Mystery at Ebenezer Lodge by Dunni Olatunde

Half Hour Hara Series. Book #1 The Case of the Broken Eggs by Ugo Anidi

Science Fiction

Zahra the Windseeker by Nnedi Okoroafor


Folktales are Forever by Efe Farinre


Idia of the Benin kingdom by Ekiuwa Aire

Please note: This list is by no means exhaustive!

  1. Action: Get a library subscription

Try Bookworm Café. This outfit specializes only in children’s books and its Director is a children’s literature connoisseur.

Try ZODML, Zaccheus Onumba Dibiaezue Memorial Libraries too!


Be like me, buy every single book on this list … AND MORE 😊

2. Read.

Read 2 to 3 books in each genre to determine which one appeals to you😊

Then when you find your niche, read as many books as possible in that genre. Good luck!

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*post on nonfiction coming soon

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30 Tips for Writing Delightful Children’s Books Day 2


Stephen King

15 years ago, I met my ‘then’ role model and I excitedly asked her the million-dollar question: “What can I do to become a world-famous writer like you?” I expected a million-dollar answer, a one-way ticket to stardom, the secret to Enid Blyton’s success, something utterly profound.

What I got was:

Read Read Read.

Mschew, I thought as I walked away.

A decade and some later, I know now that she gave me the best piece of writing advice in the world! In fact, this should have been Tip #1. 😊 Do you want to become a bestselling children book author? Please read hundreds of books by other children’s book authors! Hundreds! Thousands! Set a monthly reading target! There is NO OTHER WAY.

Also ….

A… Read what you would like to write

If you love historical fiction and you would like to write a piece of historical fiction set in Nigeria with a 12-year-old main character, please read at least 20 middle grade historical fiction novels set in Africa before you start writing. Read another 20 after writing your first draft. Note: Novels which provide examples of good writing are called mentor texts.


BRead like a writer.

When you read, look out for craft elements* that the writer used to perfection and write them down. Note the way the writer uses them. Elements to look out for: point of view, character development, plot, theme, worldbuilding/setting, dialogue, scenes, literary devices, etc.

  1. Action: Create a Read like a Writer Journal.

For every book you read, write the craft element that appealed to you in your journal.

Here’s what mine looks like:

1Beasts Made of NightTochi OnyebuchiMemorable Action ScenesYA, African magical realism
2Zahrah the WindseekerNnedi OkoroaforWorldbuilding!!!!!!YA, African magical realism
3Aru Shah and the End of TimeRoshani ChokshiWorldbuildingMG, Mythology
4Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the SkyKwame MbaliaWorldbuilding, themeMG Mythology
5Lalani of the Distant SeaErin Entrada KellyWorld Building, Xter Development (Hetsbi)MG, Magical realism
6How to Find What You’re Not Looking ForVeera HiranandaniCharacter, 2nd person Point of view, emotional connection with writer: lots of heart, theme,MG, Contemporary, Historical Fiction, Disability, Discrimination
7Children of Blood and BoneTomi AdeyemiWorldbuilding, Excellent Xter Development (Amari + Prince Inan), internal dialogue, 1st person point of view x 3YA, Yoruba Mythology, The Orisha
RLAW Table

This table shows you the stuff I loved/learnt from the books I’ve read in recent times but it also shows you something else: the nature of the story I’m currently working on and the type of story I’d like to try after this project.

I am currently working on a middle grade piece of historical fiction with elements of magical realism. The bit on mythology is for my next project. 😊

2. Read.

So, figure out the theme/genre of your next writing project and start reading.

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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*post on craft elements coming soon

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Chicken in the Kitchen


Title: Chicken in The Kitchen

Author: Nnedi Okoroafor

Publisher: Lantana Publishing

Number of pages: 32

Type of Book: Fiction; African

Age: 2 – 8

Available here: http://www.lantanapublishing.com/books/chicken-in-the-kitchen/

Price: GBP 6.99 (book) GBP 4.99 (epub/e-book)


‘What would you do if you woke up one night to find the shadow of a giant chicken passing your bedroom door?’

I would pull my wrapper/duvet over my head, squeeze my eyes shut and pretend I didn’t see it, so it would go away. But unlike me, Anyaugo’s a courageous little girl. She got up to  investigate!

And she did find a giant chicken in the kitchen making a huge mess! Anyaugo had to save all the yam dishes her mum and auntie had prepared for the New Yam Festival from the angry chicken but she needed help! Enter her friend the wood wit! With his help, she discovered out that the giant chicken in the kitchen had a sunny, shiny smile, could dance and was much more than just a smiling dancing chicken. Read the book to find out how Anyaugo saved the dishes from the chicken, danced with it and saw it the following day at the New Yam Festival!


UP: It is beautifully illustrated. The illustrations bring Nnedi’s words to life!! I was thrilled to pieces by the illustration on the penultimate page because it reminded me so much of home, of watching masquerades perform and looking at throngs of excited spectators walk the streets during festive periods, from the safety of my grandparent’s balcony.

This book makes learning fun for kids by showing a lot about the Nigerian culture through the eyes of a curious and courageous little girl and a giant dancing chicken. Kids will learn about the New Yam Festival, masquerades, spirits and yam dishes common to the Igbos of Southern Nigeria.

Another highlight was the wood wit. I loved it. That guy was very silly. One of my favourite lines from the book was his: “Ask it … But ask it in Chickenese”

I recommend this book for kids with a thirst for African literature or even just a little bit of adventure in their lives.

DOWN: None


4.5 Stars


  1. Ask your child to spot 1 animal that pops up in the illustrations but isn’t mentioned in the book.

a. a cat

  1. Ask your child to list four features of the New Yam Festival mentioned in the book.

a. masquerades. b. yam dishes c. spirits d. yams


  1. Find out the origin of this story here: http://nnedi.blogspot.com.ng/2015/08/origin-of-chicken.html
  1. Team the reading experience with a yam-tasting fete. Try (Introduce your child to) as many Nigerian yam dishes as possible: Yam porridge, fried yam, boiled yam, yamarita, pounded yam and soup and of course the signature yam dish for the New Yam Festival: Roasted yam with palm oil, dried fish and ugba/ukpaka (oil bean).

CHALLENGE: Chicken in the Kitchen


  1. List 3 yam dishes eaten by the Igbos of South-East, Nigeria. Make a collage of pictures of these dishes. (4 – 5 year olds)


  1. Draw (and name) 3 masquerades commonly found in Nigeria. Make a collage of pictures of these masquerades. (6 – 8 year olds)

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 Wednesday, December 2nd 2015

Sneak Peak

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photo credit: lantanapublishing.com

New Release

The last quarter of this year has brought with it some really good books written by indigenous authors: veteran fantasy writer, Nnedi Okoroafor; cheeky Okechukwu Ofili of Ofilispeaks.com and okadabooks.com, and newbie Nnamdi Anyadu. Chicken in the Kitchen by Nnedi Okoroafor will be one of the picture books reviewed this month in honour of the ‘November is Picture Book Month’ initiative. I have just acquired Chicken in the Kitchen and I eagerly await my copy of Afro: The Girl with the Magical Hair by Okechukwu Ofili. Anyadu’s The Forgotten Fables is yet to hit bookstores. Expect reviews of the first two books before the end of the month. Until then, brief information on the books is provided below.

Chicken-in-the-Kitchen-Cover-Image-300x300Title: CHICKEN IN THE KITCHEN 

Author: Nnedi Okoroafor

Publisher: Lantana Publishing

Release Date: October, 2015

Summary by Publisher

What would you do if you woke up one night to find the shadow of a giant chicken passing your bedroom door? Go and investigate of course! When Anyaugo follows a giant chicken into her kitchen one warm night in Nigeria, she embarks on a hilarious adventure where nothing is quite as it seems. Is the nature spirit that lives in the wooden walls of her house a help or a hindrance? Is the mischievous giant chicken a friend or a foe? Most importantly, will Anyaugo be able to save the food her aunties have cooked for the New Yam Festival the next day? World Fantasy Award-winning author Nnedi Okoroafor provides us with a hugely entertaining look at the fascinating masquerade culture of West Africa, told from the perspective of a plucky young Nigerian girl who finds the courage to protect the traditions she loves.

Afro---The-Girl-with-the-Magical-Hair-3677542_1Title: AFRO: THE GIRL WITH THE MAGICAL HAIR 

Author: Okechukwu Ofili

Publisher: Farafina Tuuti

Release Date: 2015

Summary by Publisher 

When the people of Yackiland run out of Kanek weaves, the kingdom is thrown into chaos. Ruled by an evil, straight hair-obsessed queen for so many years, the people of Yackiland have forgotten how to grow their own hair. It is up to Afro, the girl with magical hair, to save the kingdom. But the queen has plans of her own…

Coming Soon … 

12122434_10153023574180448_323645080768838097_nTitle: THE FORGOTTEN FABLES

Author: Nnamdi Anyadu

Publisher: Jungle Urchin

Release Date: Coming Soon

New book by new author Nnamdi Anyadu and a new publishing house for children’s books, Jungle Urchin.

Sign up for alerts to know when this book becomes available.


Ugo :–)



Zahrah the Windseeker


Title: Zahrah the Windseeker

Author: Nnedi Okoroafor-Mbachu

Publisher: Farafina Books/ HMH Books for Young Readers

Number of pages: 320/308

Type of Book: Fantasy, Fiction; African

Age: 10+

Available here: http://www.konga.com/farafina-zahrah-the-wind-seeker-1080068; http://www.amazon.com/Zahrah-Windseeker-Nnedi-Okorafor-Mbachu/dp/0547020287

Price: N500; $7.51


Zahrah is a 13-year-old girl born with dadalocks in a kingdom where people with dadalocks are looked upon as strange. She is quiet, shy, constantly bullied and afraid of heights. All these change when one night, Zahrah finds herself floating off her bed. Her quest for knowledge eventually leads her and her best friend Dari, into the Forbidden Greeny Jungle where Dari is bitten by a war snake whose venom sends him into a coma. Only the serum from an unfertilized elgort egg can save Dari’s life. Zahrah has four weeks to enter the depths of the Forbidden Greeny Jungle to find and steal an unfertilized egg from an elgort, the fastest, most vicious animal in the Jungle.


UP: Everything!! Again, Nnedi kept me up till 4am. I read this book some seven years ago and it made a huge impression on me!! It was a pleasure to read again! And I will definitely read it some more in the future! Nnedi Okoroafor’s imagination is out of this world. Her use of language is fantastic! Her story world is described in such detail that the reader is easily sucked into it! Zahrah the Windseeker is African Magical realism at its best!!! The plot, the characters were so well fleshed out but the highlight of the book for me: The Setting!!

The book is set in the Ooni Kingdom, a kingdom that is dominated by plants. The houses are made of plants, the towers and sky scrapers as well, the computers are plants, the currency of the day: flowers, even the medical equipment (heart monitors) are plants. Other highlights were the Dark Market (with the drawing baboons, live vultures, fortune-tellers, personal pepper seeds, dog-sized toads, etc.) and the Forbidden Greeny Jungle (with the flesh-eating plants, the Speculating Speckled Frog: a shiny pink frog with gold speckles and the ability to answer all questions, a human-sized scorpion with a poisoned whip for a tail, talking panthers, a two-headed green tortoise the size of a large car, thieving bush cows, etc.)

One of my best lines from the book: ‘Fear landed on my shoulder like a heavy bloodsucking masquerade’ Such imagery!

DOWN: None


5 Stars


  1. Who were the Windseekers? They were dada-born people born with the ability to fly.  
  2. How did Zahrah escape the giant scorpion and its poisoned whip? The enormous car-sized, two-headed tortoise with eyes as big as dinner plates appeared out of nowhere, smashed the scorpion to death and feasted on its body!
  3. What are elgorts? Elgorts are described as the ultimate killing machines. With enormous trunks lined with sharp teeth and the ability to fell whole trees while in motion and eat their prey (even humans) in three crunches, they are the fastest and deadliest animals in the Forbidden Greeny Jungle.
  4. Why did people grow their own personal peppers? To become socially spicy: more attractive and more popular.
  5. The first man Zahrah met when she went to the Dark Market? A one-eyed man with cornrows, selling live vultures.
  6. “ … From the information you typed into me, you are a thirteen-year-old girl who seeks to find an unfertilized elgort egg for your friend? … Then you are truly mad” Who/What said this? Zahrah’s talking compass.

Read an excerpt here http://www.africanwriter.com/zahrah-the-windseeker-an-excerpt-from-the-nnedi-okorafor-novel/

CHALLENGE: Zahrah the Windseeker


  1. What is Nsibidi? Write a short 400-word essay


  1. Draw a picture of the Dark Market using the details in Chapter 4 of the Book.


  1. Write a poem on ‘Bullying’.

Send your answers to ugochinyelu.anidi@gmail.com

Entry requirements: Entrants must be within the 10-12 age range. The first correct entry will be announced on this page and will win a copy of this book and a copy of ‘Akata Witch’ by the same author.

Answers must be submitted before 12:00am on Tuesday, November 17th 2015

Next Book of the Week:


Akata Witch/What Sunny Saw in the Flames



Title: Akata Witch also ‘What Sunny Saw in the Flames’

Author: Nnedi Okoroafor

Publisher: Cassava Republic Press

Age: 10+

Number of pages: 229

Available here: http://www.cassavarepublic.biz/collections/new-books/products/what-sunny-saw-in-the-flameshttp://www.amazon.com/Akata-Witch-Nnedi-Okorafor/dp/0670011967

Price: N 800; $11.72


Akata Witch is a GREAT BOOK, one that I’d read again and again. It’s about an Igbo girl, Sunny who moved back to Nigeria from the US and discovered that she could see into the future. This marked the beginning of her journey into the world of the Leopard People. Sunny discovered she had magical powers, made friends with Orlu, Chi Chi and Sasha and trained as part of a team to stop Black Hat Otokoto and Ekwensu from destroying the world.

Thumbs Up: The river creature, Leopard Knocks (the West African Headquarters for the Leopard People), the mentors (Anatov, Kehinde, Taiwo and Sugar Cream) as well as the explosive tainted pepper soup, chittimtungwa, walking books, spirit faces and wasp artists make this book a fascinating read. Truly unputdownable!

Thumbs Down: It ended abruptly. I had waited so long for the show down, you know, the ‘last fight’ that I was quite disappointed that the fight with Ekwensu was over in seconds.

Rating: Five Stars


  1. In the last chapter, Sunny’s wasp artist built a man that looked like ………
  2. What currency did the Leopard people use?
  3. How did Sunny give Jibaku a good scare?
  4. What would happen if you put the following ingredients in the Tainted Pepper Soup? a. small tomatoes b. chicken c. chicken magi cubes d. not perfectly round onions
  5. What was Sunny’s Mentor’s called?
  6. What exploded over Sunny’s head in Leopard Knocks?
  7. What was the title of the slim, green book with tiny black legs, that taught Sunny lots of things about the Leopard people?


  6. TUNGWA: A floating bag of warm wet air containing teeth, bone, red chunks of raw, rotten meat and tufts of hair. Yuck!

Read an excerpt from the book here: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0103/7312/files/Pages_from_WSSITFLayoutFinal_V4_P191.pdf?3812

Visit its website here: https://aobermeier629.wordpress.com

Next Book of the Week (06/May/2015 – 12/May/2015):



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photo credit: amazon.com; cassavarepublic.biz