Sunday, February 23, 2014

Amadi's Snowman by Katia Novet Saint-Lot

We're getting our first real snow of the season today, and Sprout couldn't be more excited. Never mind that we had to wait until February to see the ground covered and the white flakes flying -- he's thrilled at the prospect of making a snowman, something we haven't really had enough snow to do in at least two winters. Such is life in the Pacific Northwest, after all.

I am a bit amused by his anticipation and excitement over the snow, mostly because his first winter here with us, Sprout HATED the snow. He cried and cried the first time we tried to play in it, and the second, and barely tolerated it the third time. But now he's become acclimated to our temperate weather, and looks forward to snow with the same heady sense of excitement I remember from my own childhood. I do often wonder what Sprout's family in Ethiopia would think if they could see him bundled up and enjoying the frosty climate. We've sent them pictures and I imagine them being surprised to see him in this setting, so different from their own lush, tropical weather. We really hope these scenes make them smile.

And of course, the snow today makes me think of a book we recently read together, Amadi's Snowman by Katia Novet Saint-Lot. The book centers around Amadi, a young Igbo boy growing up in his home country of Nigeria. Amadi's mother has arranged for a teacher in the village to spend time with Amadi and teach him to read, but Amadi's resistant. He wants to be a businessman when he grows up, getting started like the boy he sees who earn money for washing cars and then buy small trinkets they can sell to make more money. Amadi can't see how reading will help with that plan at all. And so he sneaks off before Mrs Chikodili arrives, rambling the market stalls where he sees another boy, Chima, at a bookstall reading about a creature made all of white with a carrot for a nose. Chima tells Amadi the creature is a snowman, and explains all about snow and winter. Amadi is captivated and wants to read more, but the bookstall owner chases the boys away. How will Amadi find out more about this strange snow, and a man made entirely of it? How will he learn about all the things in the world that he never knew existed?

"Lesson" books are often not my favorite, especially when they're text-heavy as this one is. But Amadi's Snowman manages to keep the tone light and the text, while plentiful, flows easily to tell Amadi's story. I like that, while set in Nigeria, the story's one that could work in many other areas. In addition, the tale is thoughtfully told, which makes it one that older readers will respond to -- I can see this used as a discussion starter in the classroom, and it's a nice book for developing global perspectives. The illustrations by Dimitrea Tokunbo capture the flavor of the setting while honoring the characters. (I wasn't at all surprised to learn that Tokunbo has a connection to Nigeria, as her father grew up there.)

All in all, Amadi's Snowman is a unique and memorable story that demonstrates the value in reading to open one's mind to new ideas and experiences -- not only for Amadi, but also for the readers who'll delve into his world.

Amadi's Snowman by Katia Novet Saint-Lot, published by Tilbury House Publishers
Ages 5-7
Source: Library
Sample: "Amadi closed the book and looked at the cover. The boy seemed to smile at him, as if challenging him. Amadi smiled back. Yes, he'd learn about snow."

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