A children’s book about contributions made by African soldiers during World War II.
In this debut nonfiction picture book, Zenobia introduces young readers to African and Caribbean soldiers who fought in World War II. The book is illustrated with photographs of soldiers from Kenya, Tanzania, and other countries, as well as corresponding maps and flags. A parent/teacher guide, consisting of suggested activities and more detailed historical information, follows the picture-book text. Topics addressed include the role of African troops in the Battle of Myohaung, colonialism, and diaspora. Though the book brings welcome attention to an often overlooked aspect of history, it is hampered by an unpolished presentation and a disorganized structure. The writing is weak. The picture-book narrative shifts from a somewhat structured rhyme scheme in the opening pages (“Kwesi’s dad is so brave, so strong, and I knew / How hard he fought to win World War II”) to unrhymed text near the end: “Now you know how Kwesi’s dad saved the world / He dreamed of freedom / He held hope in his hands.” The parent/teacher guide struggles with awkward phrasing and repetition: “Myohaung (now Mrauk U) was once one of the most powerful ancient kingdoms in history. Myohaung (now Mrauk U) was founded in 1433. Myohaung (now Mrauk U) was a leading trade city in its glory time.” Although most of the factual information is contained in the parent/teacher guide, the picture-book text jumps from the narrative to an explanation of colonial-era flags—“Yes, Africans fought under the red, white and blue BRITISH flag / The blue, white and red FRENCH flag”—then back to the narrative. Instead of being a fully developed character, Kwesi’s dad comes across as rather generic, and Kwesi himself isn’t part of the story. Admirably, the book reaches beyond the usual topics covered in children’s histories, but it does so in a haphazard way that lessens its value as a resource for classrooms and libraries.
A new perspective on World War II for children, but this telling suffers from limitations in prose and structure.