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Children’s Book Reviews with a 10-Year-Old
May 07 – May 20, 2020
big buna bash

I love children’s books and am glad to have my 10-year-old grand niece Zaria Berry weigh in on some of the recent books publicists have brought to Port Of Harlem magazine’s attention. Among the four books we recently received, Berry’s favorite is “O is for Oshun.” The alphabet book introduces children and their parents to folklore from Nigeria, Brazil, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Venezuela, Japan, China, Australia (Aboriginal people), Iraq, Mexico, Spain, and Guatemala.

Though the colorful book is geared toward children ages 2-12, the fourth grader added, “It’s not a baby book, but it really is for kids a bit younger than I. I enjoyed it.” Surprisingly, she added “I liked it because it taught me about mythical things.” When I asked if she had read the book to her two-year-old sister, she ended by saying she could not because her sister likes to move (around a lot). Oh, well.

I was most intrigued by “The Big Buna Bash.” The tale is set in Ethiopia, a country, along with Eritrea, that we often cover. The book presents the typical story of a kid who is misinterpreted by “unexposed” kids and the estranged child uses her uniqueness to bridge the gap. 

However, what makes this story uniquely entertaining and educational is that it exposes children to Ethiopian culture and the importance of a buna (coffee) ceremony for socializing with family and guests the Ethiopian way. Across the homeland to The Gambia, tea often serves as the conduit. Gambians call the ritual attaya.

Just before press time, we got a book that I requested and I am glad that I did. The book, “Little Black Pearls for Little Black Girls,” is written by a daughter-mother team, Kennedy Jordan Turner, who created the stellar graphics, and Dominique Jordan Turner.  I really have to get Berry’s opinion on the graphics, because from my perspective they are each joyously kid relatable.

As the book finder for the libraries that The Port Of Harlem Gambian Education Partnership is creating in The Gambia, I was most appreciative that the nuggets of wisdom and images were universal. I liked that the images only depicted human relationships and not humans and the material goods in which we interact - - such as designer kitchens and the latest tablet, that may not be readily available in The Gambia or in all homes in America. Such simplicity allows the reader to focus on the book’s intent: increased discussion and interaction between mother (or female adult) and daughter. 

“If you put negative energy into the universe, it will come right back to you like a boomerang,” is one of the 26 nuggets of wisdom in “Black Pearls.” Alhasan Bah, who heads the Balal Public Library, Ayuba Suleiman Diallo Education Center in Soma, The Gambia says they have a similar saying in his native Fula. “When you do good, the same good will come back to you. If you also do bad, surely bad will come back to you,” he responded.
While I read a story that seemed dated for Berry, the Elementary National Honor Society member read a tale of hope.
I was most cautious about hearing Berry’s thoughts on “Miraculous Motown Adventure,” by Claudette Robinson and A.K. Morris.  After all, Robinson became a Miracle in 1955 and I had not been conceived. While I read a story that seemed dated for Berry, the Elementary National Honor Society member read a tale of hope.

The story is loosely based on the Miracles, but involves a witch (mystics) that tries to gum things up. “It shows how the town was musical and how the witch tried to take away the music,” surmised Berry, who is learning online from home during the quarantine.  

Instead of the music being put on mute, the Miracles continued to serenade the city.  “It showed that the witch never took way the music and that that you have to make it yourself,” she concluded. I surmised our different perspective to my being so stuck on seeing if Robinson would vaguely paint the witch as Diana Ross and how the older version of Claudette had thicker and blonde hair that I totally missed the point.

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