Ashley Bryan is a man who uses his words and pictures to lift up readers' spirits. When he enters a room and starts to tell stories from Africa's past, he transports his audience to a faraway, long ago time to learn valuable lessons for today. His talents illuminate wisdom earned from a lifetime of hard work.
"Long, long ago, when the earth was set down and the sky was lifted up, all folktales were owned by the Sky God."
So begins an Ashanti tale, Anansi Does the Impossible!, retold by Verna Aardema. Anansi the Spider and his clever wife, Aso, use their wits to buy the folk tales for the Ashanti people. Verna Aardema spent much of her life retelling these folktales.
As every baby who's ever beaten a spoon against her high chair knows, there's nothing more fun than the rhythm of a pounding drum sound. Fast or slow, loud or soft, people around the world use the drum to build community spirit.
Ethiopia-the faraway land on the horn of Africa, was Jane Kurtz's home when she was a young girl. Her parents were missionaries there, and her playmates were dark-skinned, smiling children. They mostly lived in grass-covered huts with dirt floors covered with mats—as did Jane and her family. The boys might work as cattle herders; the girls would help their mothers with cooking until it was time for them to be married.
When you’re thirteen, it seems as though everything will be the same always, especially if you live in a traditional culture. For John Bul Dau, life with his large family and many friends as cattle keepers in the Dinka tribe was wonderful. The elders were wise and taught them what they needed to know to become strong men and women. There was time for work and time for play. All of that changed the night the Northern soldiers destroyed their village, as told in John Bul Dau and Martha Arual Akech’s Lost Boy, Lost Girl: Escaping the Civil War in Sudan.
Deo and his brother Innocent live in a village in Zimbabwe. One day when they are outside in their village playing soccer, trucks with soldiers aboard arrive armed with guns. In the book Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams, an ordinary day that started with soccer games with friends ends with tragedy and carnage. Deo and Innocent are the only surviving members of their village. Everyone else has been murdered by the soldiers. The brothers must secretly leave the village and try to find safety elsewhere. The brothers manage to escape only after Innocent convinces Deo to go back and retrieve his "Bix box" that contains all his prized possessions. Deo has his soccer ball which is stuffed with money.
Deo and Innocent must make their way to South Africa where they can work, go back to school, and find their father. The only clue they have to his whereabouts is a crumpled picture of him standing in front of a truck with a phone number on it.
Jake Knight seems to have it all. He's a fifteen-year-old technology whiz who can jump a ten-foot wall with his parkour skills. He's enrolled in a nice British school, and his dad is an ambassador to the small West African country of Burkina Faso. To Jake, Africa is a land of excitement and adventure...and he will soon learn that it is also the land of the Outlaw.
Jake thinks his boarding school life is pretty lame and spends his time playing Geothimble, a scavenger hunt that uses GPS technology. When Jake's extracurricular activity gets him suspended, he is sent to his father's embassy. Jake could not be happier, but little does he know that he's about to get enough excitement to last a lifetime.
In A Life Like Mine: How Children Live Around the World, we are introduced to 18 children from different continents, such as Mahasin and her family, nomadic cattle herders in Sudan. Mahasin is nine years old and attends a traveling school for children. When she’s not learning lessons, she likes to weave baskets and help her mother and sisters cook their staple meal, asida, a dish of vegetables and grains mixed with spices. We also meet Isa, age 10, who lives in Sierra Leone and was taken by fighters in the country’s civil war for two years. Now he is back with his family, attending school, planting a few crops, and playing checkers with his friends. The stories and photographs of these children’s lives are fascinating and will appeal to any child who wonders how the world’s children are alike and different.
Whether leaping through the vines of a rainforest or the pages of a book at the library, monkeys have lots to teach us about the ways animals live, our responsibilities in caring for the last wild places, and just how to have fun.
I'll bet you know that monkeys are furry, cute, and swing in the trees, but there's so much more to learn about them:
A Monkey is NOT an Ape
Monkeys have tails, but apes do not. Chimpanzees, gibbons, orangutans, and gorillas are all apes. They use their powerful arms and legs to swing through the trees. Many New World monkeys from South America can use their tails like another hand to swing. Monkeys from Asia and India can't do that! Monkeys, apes, and humans are all part of a family group called primates.
In 2008, Nya, a young woman who lives in Sudan, walks two hours one way to get water for her family. She does this twice a day. She does not have shoes. In her book A Long Walk to Water, Newbery medalist Linda Sue Park, introduces us to Nya. She also introduces us to Salva, a young man living in Sudan in 1985.
Their stories are told in alternating tales. Salva is a young student in Sudan in 1985. His country has been going through a civil war for decades. One day while Salva is at school, a group of rebels attack his village. The teacher tells all the students to run away to escape the attack by the rebels. Salva does as instructed but soon finds himself alone and far from his home. He certainly does not feel safe. He is lost and disoriented. He meets up with a group of refugees who are leaving Sudan and heading to Kenya. Salva joins the group though they are reluctant to accept him because he is a child and may become a burden. Salva walks with them, hoping to find safety in Kenya and hoping to be reunited with his family.