CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 32. . . .April 20, 2018
Both of these picture books were published by the OSU Children's Library Fund whose Mission Statement reads: "In close partnership with local authorities and communities, the 'Fund' develops a network of vibrant libraries, primarily in Ghana, which promote reading for children and literacy classes for adults." In addition, in response to its Vision Statement ("To bring books and the joy of reading to all African children") the Fund creates books which speak to the children of Ghana and neighbouring African countries.
In Twins Together, Knowles uses full-colour photographs and simple declarative sentences for the text (one photo and line of text per page) as she follows young twin sisters through a typical day in their Ghanaian community, beginning at the point they wake up and continuing until they return to their sleeping mat in the evening. In between those bookending events, the twins engage in activities that are common to most children, including brushing their teeth, bathing, going to school, enjoying special food treats, reading books, playing ball, dancing and singing.
Though the book's events may be common to most children, the geographical context causes some of these activities to be carried out differently than would be experienced by North American children. For instance, instead of jumping into a bathtub and turning on a tap for water, the twins have to go with their mother to a central water source and help their mother carry home the needed water that then must be heated before they can bath in a large earthenware container.
City Sounds, also authored by Kathy Knowles, is illustrated by a Ghanaian artist, Edmund Opare. Like Twins Together, this book follows a young child, a boy, though a day in his city of Accra, the capital of the Republic of Ghana, and records the sounds he hears, sounds that begin with a rooster crowing and conclude with the white noise of a fan as the boy goes to sleep on his mat at day's end. Again, readers will encounter some familiar sounds, such as that of passing cars, boys laughing and crowds cheering at a soccer match, but, at the same time, some of the seemingly common sounds will become new because of the Ghanian setting. The narrator's neighbours' shouting is because goats have gotten into their plants and are eating them, and the school bell the boy hears announcing school's beginning is not an electronic buzzer but the sound coming from a hand bell being rung by one of the students. The sound of water splashing is not emanating from a tap in a bathroom or kitchen, but rather it's the sound coming from a community water tank as people fill up containers with water that will be used during the day for drinking, cooking and cleaning. As with Twins Together, each page of City Sounds contains an illustration and a single line of text. Each of Opare's full-page watercolour illustrations contains numerous background details that readers will appreciate during rereadings.
Though this pair of books was principally created for an overseas audience, Twins Together and City Sounds definitely have a place in Canadian and American schools and public libraries as both countries have experienced increased immigration from African nations. Though North American children may initially see the differences between their lives and that of the two girls and the boy, they should be encouraged to find the commonalities in their life experiences.
Read more about the OSU Children's Library Fund and Kathy Knowles at http://www.osuchildrenslibraryfund.ca
Dave Jenkinson, CM's editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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