port of harlem magazine
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Six Children Books an Adult can Enjoy
Dec 15 – Dec 28, 2022
i can do anything book cover

My favorite book among the five in this review is “The Very Best Sukkah.” The book reminds me of the movie, New Muslim Cool, in that they both tell the story of people not often identified with the religion in which they follow. In the film, it was New York Puerto Ricans who are Muslims. In Sukkah, it’s Ugandans who are Jewish.

What makes Sukkah extra special is that it’s written by Shoshani Nambi, who will become the first female rabbi in Uganda in 2024. This group of African Jews, the Abayudaya, are not to be confused with the Lemba people of Zimbabwe, whose century of oral stories have told of their connections to Israel. (See Even Some Whites Preach That Africans are God’s Chosen People).

“Sukkah” is full of large colorful illustrations by Moran Yogev that simply tell the story of a community celebration and the role of the Sukkah, a temporary structure for the celebration of Sukkot, which commemorates the 40 years the Jewish spent in the desert on their way to the Promised Land after escaping slavery in Egypt. The structure recalls the Jewish buildings as they traveled in the desert from Egypt to Israel.

While children will learn about the lives of another group of children, I think adults will be challenged to rethink what they have learned. However, at the end of the delightful story is reference information including a short history of the Abayudaya and a glossary.

Another memorable story is “Somebody to Love” by performing artist Valeria June. She also performs on the Kennedy Center’s Millennial Stage, January 7 in person and live-stream. Tickets for the in person performance are always free on the day of the show at the box office, but you can book tickets in advance online.

The book is about dreams, the dreams of her banjolele to sing. Through her instrument, the book encourages children to dream and believe in oneself to make their wishes come true. The story, of course, is not unique, e.g. “The Little Train that Could,” but the illustrations by Marcela Avelar add to making this book an absolute delight.

“Hair: From Moptops to Mohicans, Afros and Cornrows” started off with much promise, but ended with a good, but could have been better rating. The revelations of the historical, cultural, religious, and other aspects of hair were inclusive and diverse in many ways, including geography, and written appropriately for kids. 

However, at least twice, Katja Spitzer failed to present an inclusive tone or language. For instance, in her telling of how popular Marvelous High-Rise Hairstyles were among fine women during the Rococo period, she failed to limit its scope to Central Europe. I did learn, however, as a balding man, that it is natural to also start growing hair in new places.

Those are three of the many books POH learned of via press releases from publicist looking for a review. “Puedo Hacer Cualquiera” is the only book we sought after. Written by Andre Renee Harris, the self-published self confidence hardback is in Spanish and English. “I Can Do Anything,” is the English-only version.

Gambian-American Momodou Ndow authored with his niece, Saffie Jagne, “The Banjul Mosquitoes.” In the story, Amadou asks his friend Momodou, where do mosquitoes come from. The question sparks an answer full of adventure and whimsical characters set in the seaside city of Banjul, the capital of The Gambia.

For young adults, we are happy to share that South Africa’s Lorato Trok’s “Against The Odds: The Story of Rosina Sedibane Modiba” is now available in the United States. Trok tells the story of Modiba, a pioneering black woman athlete, who competed in multi-racial South African championships. POH has covered Trok and her work twice and done a podcast with her.

Reading children’s book can be fun even for adults and even better with children. From our last issue see Children Book Reviews with Children.
See the winners of the 2022 Children’s Africana Book Awards
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