Reviewed by Anastasia Shown
Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker & April Harrison is a splendid book! It begins with Zura being anxious about the upcoming “Grandparents Day” at her school because her Grandmother has unique face markings that she received as a child growing up in Ghana, West Africa. The markings on her face are an old tradition that showed which ethnic group a person belonged to and represented beauty and confidence. In the past, children have made jokes and comments in front of Zura about her grandmother’s face. She is worried the children in her class will be mean to her. But Grandma Nana Akua is confident and brave. She makes a plan to teach the children about tradition and culture in Ghana in a way that helps Zura feel good and proud. It ultimately makes the whole class think more about their own identities.
This is a story where the reader will learn much more than some facts about Ghanaian culture. Students will enjoy reading about the other children in Zura’s class and their grandparents from other cultures and backgrounds. The illustrations are detailed and beautiful. The diversity in Zura’s class is well represented in the images, the children’s names and their “abuelas” and “mimis.” The inclusion of the West African Adinkra symbols in the story and the book liner is done well. They are listed by their Akan name (a language and people from Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire) with a pronunciation guide, definition and illustration. Continue reading.
Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker
Published by Random House Children's Books on June 16, 2020
Reading Level: Grade K, Grades 1-2
Review Source: Africa Access
Publisher's Synopsis: Winner of the 2021 Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award!
In this moving story that celebrates cultural diversity, a shy girl brings her West African grandmother — whose face bears traditional tribal markings — to meet her classmates. This is a perfect read for back to school!
It is Grandparents Day at Zura's elementary school, and the students are excited to introduce their grandparents and share what makes them special. Aleja's grandfather is a fisherman. Bisou's grandmother is a dentist. But Zura's Nana, who is her favorite person in the world, looks a little different from other grandmas. Nana Akua was raised in Ghana, and, following an old West African tradition, has tribal markings on her face. Worried that her classmates will be scared of Nana — or worse, make fun of her — Zura is hesitant to bring her to school. Nana Akua knows what to do, though. With a quilt of traditional African symbols and a bit of face paint, Nana Akua is able to explain what makes her special and to make all of Zura's classmates feel special, too.