I’m fairly certain that I’m a week late with my entry for C.O.R.A. Diversity Roll Call, in which participants are asked to discuss authors from a country or region from around the world. My daughter and I are headed out to the county fair this morning, so in her honor I’d like to briefly mention two special children’s books about Ghana, West Africa:
- Gerald McDermott’s Anansi the Spider is one of my favorite versions of the Ashanti tale about the African trickster and expert storyteller. Bright bold colors and geometric shapes recreate the life of Anansi and his six sons. This is the kind of story that I want my daughter to know just as well as she can recite “The Eency Weency Spider” (an American cousin, perhaps?) or “The Three Little Pigs.”
- My daughter’s favorite book, however, is Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story From Africa by Niki Daly. Pretty Salma translates a story that is very familiar to American readers through the beautifully-illustrated geography, language, and culture of Ghana. Salma wraps her colorful ntama skirt around her waist and kisses her Granny goodbye, only to wander into the path of an evil dog who takes the basket perched on her head. Anansi appears here, too, through the form of Salma’s grandfather and together they trick that ol’ dog into leaving Granny alone.
In my research for this post, I was surprised to discover that the writer and illustrator of Pretty Salma, Niki Daly, is a white South African man from Cape Town. In an interview about his work, Daly stated:
“It’s an act of revealing, done by throwing light on a story. The illustrator’s light comes through understanding, empathizing, and becoming part of the story. I try to observe with respect and care when I illustrate a story that is outside my own life’s experience.
And indeed, it is respect and care that comes through in Pretty Salma – a book that has not simply entertained my daughter, but forced me to reconsider my own assumptions about how black African stories can be shared and by whom. Daly is also the author of Jamela’s Dress, Welcome to Zanzibar Road, and Fly, Eagle, Fly with a forward by Desmond Tutu. I’m looking forward to adding all of these to my daughter’s bookshelf!