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

   Nana Akua Goes to School  – Tricia Elam Walker, illustrated by April Harrison. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020. 9780525581130

 Format: Hardcover

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

 Genre: picture book

 What did you like about the book? Grandparents’ Day is coming, and all of Zura’s classmates are excited to bring their grandparents to school.  Zura is nervous, though, because her Ghanaian grandmother has tribal scarring on her face and sometimes people are mean or act scared of Nana.  But Nana is Zura’s ‘favorite person in the whole universe,’ so when she expresses her concern to Nana, the two of them come up with a beautiful solution.  When speaking to the class, Nana is upfront about explaining the markings, lets the children see her scars up close so they don’t seem as scary, and she compares them to tattoos so the kids will have a frame of reference.  She then paints Adinkra symbols -based on a quilt Zura has brought to school – on all the students’ faces (and even on the other grandparents!).

This sweet family story gently addresses the important issue of cultural identity and pride, and is notable in that Nana and Zura’s solution is largely proactive rather than reactive.  Lyrical narrative loaded with figurative language (Nana’s big hugs ‘wrap around like a sweater’) and authentic dialog, both at school and at home, paired with soft toned, mixed-media illustrations, make for a wonderful read aloud in classrooms or at home.  Back matter includes a glossary and a list of recommended websites for further research; endpapers depict the symbols from Zura’s quilt.  

Anything you did not like about the book?  no

 To whom would you recommend this book? Students in grades 1-3 will enjoy this picture book, independently or as a class readaloud, and will be eager to share their own connections to the story of Zura and her Nana.  A highly recommended addition to any library, especially as we focus on analyzing our collections for diverse titles.

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Picture books

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  no

 Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: 3/29/2021

This entry was posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, *Starred Review, African Americans, April Harrison, Grandparents, Tricia Elam Walker and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.