An illustrated biography of Tantoh Nforba, a man who improves lives in Cameroon by helping communities access clean water and take pride in farming.
The book starts with promise: a collage of lush, sloping land with small black figures carrying water. “This is northwestern Cameroon. Green. Wet. Alive.” Unfortunately, the pages that follow describe his career in an overlong and meandering present-tense narration. A young boy named Tantoh plays in the soil in his grandmother’s plot and learns from her how to garden. Tantoh’s father encourages his interest in farming, but his peers tease him with the nickname “Farmer” as a put-down. His older brother encourages him to excel in school so that he can get an office job and support the family, but Tantoh doesn’t want an office job. He continues working the land, learning about it, and networking. Following college, he goes on to help his hometown create gardens and to help other villages locate clean water, build catchments to access it, and build reservoirs to hold water for times of drought. His work inspires many, and young people are no longer ashamed of farming. The simple beauty and variety of Zunon’s images provide enough places for eyes to rest to carry readers through the text, the dappling of her papers adding texture.
Children may not eagerly embrace this earnest homage to a worthy subject, but those with long-enough attention spans will take in some gems. (authors’ note, glossary, map, proverbs, photos) (Picture book/biography. 8-12)