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Nana Akua goes to school
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Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* One day in Zura's classroom, the children's grandparents visit and share things that make them special. Zura worries that her classmates might laugh at her grandmother because of the traditional marks on her face, placed there in childhood to designate her tribal family in Ghana and to symbolize beauty and confidence. Nana Akua, Zura's grandmother and "favorite person in the whole universe," finds the perfect solution. On Grandparents Day, after explaining her facial marks and their meanings, Nana Akua invites everyone to choose one of the 50 traditional Adinkra symbols on Zura's quilt. Intrigued, the children and grandparents make their choices, and Nana Akua paints one on each person's face while Zura looks on proudly. Fine for reading aloud to groups, this large-format book provides ample space for the richly colorful mixed-media collages by Harrison, the 2020 John Steptoe New Talent Award winner for illustration. Her attractive depictions of 20 Adinkra symbols, accompanied by their meanings, appear on the endpapers. The book's well-constructed, graceful narrative, rooted in Ghanaian tradition, will engage the many children who can relate to Zura's worries, her grandmother's warmth and wisdom, and the story's reassuring ending. This beautiful picture book offers a helpful perspective on cultural differences within a heartening family story. Preschool-Grade 3. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Zura's school is inviting grandparents to visit, and though her Ghanaian grandmother, Nana Akua, is "her favorite person in the whole universe," Zura is worried that her tribal facial markings will draw unwanted attention. "What if someone at school laughs at you or acts mean?" the child asks. Harrison (What Is Given from the Heart) shows Zura reaching across the table to take Nana Akua's big hand in her two small ones. Once in Zura's classroom, Nana Akua speaks with poise. "I'm sure you noticed the marks on my face.... These marks were a gift from my parents, who were happy and proud that I was born.... I am likewise proud to wear them." She paints Adinkra symbols on the faces of Zura's classmates (a chart listing their meanings is included) in a visit that delights the children and their grandparents. Striking artwork by Harrison gives the characters' faces classic sculptural contours, and the spreads' bold patterns and colors echo a quilt of symbols that Nana Akua made for Zura. Newcomer Walker writes convincingly about how difference can cause unease among children, and her story offers a compelling portrait of a grandmother whose pride and poise put that concern to rest. Ages 4–8. (June)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

School Library Journal Reviews

K-Gr 2—Grandparent's Day is fast approaching and Zura's classmates are very excited. Alejo is bringing in his abuelo, an amazing fisherman, who will teach the children how to catch fish. Bisou's mimi is a dentist and is going to give each child a toothbrush. Zura, on the other hand, has great anxiety about introducing her beloved nana Akua to her friends. Nana grew up in Ghana and has permanent tribal markings on her face and Zura has begun to notice that these scars can scare people. She is fearful that her classmates won't understand and will laugh and be mean to her beloved grandmother. After Zura confesses her distress, she and her nana come up with a plan. On the day of the celebration, they show the class different tribal symbols utilizing a handmade quilt and then ask the children to choose one for nana to paint on their faces. Everyone is thrilled. Mixed-media collage illustrations are the perfect medium to showcase this endearing tale. VERDICT This lovely story explores the perennial fear of being different, while showcasing the great love between a grandparent and grandchild. Pair this with Joowon Oh's Our Favorite Day for a winning story hour. Strongly recommended for purchase for all collections.—Amy Nolan, St. Joseph P.L., MI

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal.

Author Biography

Tricia Elam Walker is the author of the novel Breathing Room, among other publications. She is an award-winning fiction and nonfiction writer, cultural and fashion commentator, and blogger who has written for National Public Radio, the Washington Post, Essence magazine, HuffPost, and more. She practiced law for sixteen years prior to teaching writing in Washington, DC, and Boston. Tricia is an assistant professor of Creative Writing at Howard University and is working on several projects, including children's books, plays, and a second novel.

April Harrison, a renowned folk artist, is the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award-winning illustrator of Patricia C. McKissack's final picture book, What Is Given from the Heart, which received four starred reviews and which the New York Times Book Review called an "exquisite story of generosity." Her work appears in the public collections of Vanderbilt University, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, the Atlanta Housing Authority, and the Erskine University Museum and in many private collections. Learn more at - (Random House, Inc.)


An evocative celebration of cultural diversity finds young Zura participating in Grandparents Day at her elementary school by introducing her classmates to her West African grandmother, who explains to the students why her traditional facial tattoos are special. Illustrations. - (Baker & Taylor)

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--no matter what that looks like!

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. - (Random House, Inc.)

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