Nana Akua Goes to School
Illustrated by April Harrison
Schwartz & Wade Books; 2020
What’s not to love in the picture book Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker?!
It’s Grandparents Day at school.
Three kids are bragging about their grandparents.
Nana Akua is Zura’s “favorite person in the whole universe.” (Her Nana is “filled to the brim with stories about growing up in West Africa.”)
And she gives “big hugs, the kind that wrap around like a sweater.”
Top that off with bright joyful illustrations by April Harrison—reminiscent of African batik fabrics.
Of course there is a conflict in this great read-aloud story. Zura is worried about Grandparents Day. Her Nana Akua has permanent markings on her face that everyone will see. Traditional African markings that don’t wash off. Zura is afraid her classmates may laugh or say mean things about her Nana.
But Nana Akua is not only loving, she is smart and sensitive.
Her plan for the school visit is a big hit and her openness with the children results in a beautiful celebration of West African tradition. Zura’s classmates are enthralled to learn more and to participate.
I’m happy to report that it’s not the child who solves the problem here. All too frequently a child protagonist “fixes” a grandparent (ill or forgetful). Or a neighbor (lonely, sad, or grumpy).
Nana Akua Goes to School is a great example of an age positive picture book. Nana Akua pulls off a successful event and also allays Zura’s anxieties. I suggest adding a short discussion after reading this story.
Why not prompt a child reader to consider the life experiences that may have prepared Nana Akua? How did she know how to manage these issues so well? Where did her wisdom come from?
I reviewed a library copy of this picture book.
My own new picture book bio A PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE: NELSON MANDELA’S HOPE FOR HIS NATION is now available everywhere books are sold. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers; 2021. Ages 7 & up.)