Sandwiched between endpapers of yellow-lined paper showing the upper- and lowercase cursive alphabet, this quiet story shouts the pricelessness of literacy.
In an unnamed rural country, three brown-skinned children dance in the streets because the war has ended and they can finally return to school. No one feels more excited than Ayobami, the young protagonist wearing a checkered blue-and-white dress and with cornrowed, beaded hair. On her way to school, clever Ayobami negotiates her way out of becoming breakfast for a hippo, a crocodile, a leopard, a snake, a spider, and a mosquito by promising each she’ll give them their names on paper when she returns from school. She delivers on her promise, but, having given away all evidence of her newly acquired literacy, she has nothing to show her disappointed father at home—but the wind’s magic reveals Ayobami’s accomplishments. The book’s surreal illustration style varies widely throughout, keeping readers engaged with shifting colors, patterns, moods, and textures. Paced differently from most American picture books, this one also has hefty, durable “stone paper” pages that are “waterproof and tear resistant” and “produced without water…trees and…bleach,” making the book a green choice. Letters appear in unlikely places throughout this story—among the leopard’s spots; in the spider’s web—emphasizing that reading can always help expand our understanding.
A marvelous tale of one girl’s passion for reading, writing, and learning. (Picture book. 4-8)