Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker, illustrated by April Harrison

Published by Schwartz and Wade

Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker: 9780525581130 ...

Summary:  When Zura’s teacher talks about the class’s upcoming Grandparents’ Day, the other kids are all abuzz about bringing their grandparents to school.  But Zura is quiet.  When she gets home, readers get to meet Nana Akua, Zura’s “favorite person in the whole universe”.  So why is Zura nervous about Nana Akua visiting her school?  When Nana Akua was a baby in Ghana, her parents tattooed marks on her face to show her tribal family and to represent beauty and confidence.  Zura has overheard Nana being called “scary” and seen people act nervous around her.  When Zura confides her concerns, her grandmother suggests they take Zura’s quilt to school.  Nana made the quilt, using the Adinkra symbols of her people in Ghana.  On Grandparents’ Day, Nana Akua sensibly addresses the issue of her facial markings right away, then offers to let the kids choose which Adinkra symbols they would like painted on their faces.  This proves to be such a hit that the other grandparents line up for face painting as well, and Zura and Nana Akua conclude the day with a big hug.  Includes a glossary, sources, and Adrinka symbols and their meanings on both sets of endpapers.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This warm and tender story celebrates differences and also acknowledges that sometimes those differences can be a little scary if you don’t understand them.  You get the feeling that Nana Akua has lived a full life and has the gift at putting anyone at ease.  The colorful illustrations, with lots of interesting prints and details, reminded me of Patricia Polacco.  

Cons:  My usual beef about interesting endpapers that get covered up by taped-down dust jackets on library books.

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