The Magic Doll by Adrienne Yabouza, illustrated by Élodie Nouhen (tr. Paul Kelly)

cover of magic doll with young girl illustrated and doll and chickens

a nutshell: narrated from the perspective of Adjoa, a young child, this exquisite book shares a deeply loving story of her mother’s journey towards pregnancy and birth through the support of a Akua’ba fertility doll

a line: “Words do not have legs, but sometimes they can run fast!”

an image: one of my favourite parts was when the mother goes to the market to buy rice, millet, yams (see a glimpse below)

a thought: without a shadow of a doubt, this is the most beautiful book of all those I’ve read during my project – on its arrival I couldn’t stop turning each page to study the drawings and I loved how the story gently portrayed a struggle which many women face globally, often in silence

a fact: Yabouza closes with some fascinating insights into the geography and history behind the story – including her relationship with an Akua’ba doll that she came across in Bangui, the capital of her home country the Central African Republic, during childhood

want to read The Magic Doll? visit here

illustrations of women in a marketplace with many fruits and stunning patterns

Teaote and the Wall by Marita Davies, illustrated by Stacey Bennett

a nutshell: set in Kiribati, this beautiful children’s book follows a young girl’s resilient attempts to protect her home from the rising sea

a line: “Kairo, if you help me build my wall, I can help you build your wall”

an image: I particularly loved the page (below) where Teaote happily dreams of rippling rainbow fish, coconut trees stretching up to the clouds, and the mango-coloured sun

a thought: to me this was a moving insight into what it’s like for children on the frontlines of the climate crisis, all the more so given that the book is based on the true story of Marita’s mother Teaote

a fact: Davies closes the book with a note about Kiribati – home to 100,000 indigenous i-Kiribati people and sitting halfway between Australia & Hawaii, this small Pacific nation is predicted to disappear underwater in 50 years

want to read Teaote and the Wall? visit here

Aya de Yopougon by Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie (tr. Helge Dascher)

a nutshell: set in Côte d’Ivoire during its 1970s ‘belle époque’, this entertaining graphic novel wryly dips into the daily – and nightly – life of a community in Yopougon (aka Yop City), where it’s not just the young people getting up to mischief

a line: “there’s me, Aya, 19 years old, wondering why anyone would think of beer as a vitamin” 

an image: this time I have to comment not on words but on Clément’s brilliant illustrations which subtly amp up the comedy – e.g. a shotgun wedding scene where the bride & groom (each with a black eye from fuming loved ones) are told to “be fruitful and multiply”

a thought: the contrast between Aya’s aspirations and those of her friends is most striking when we overhear her attempt to raise the prospect of studying to be a doctor with her father, who redirects the focus on her finding a good husband – likewise her friends’ aim in life; Aya’s ambition is cast as an anomaly despite the decade’s optimism

a fact: the end comes with a few surprise treats – a glossary & recipes, as well as a guide on how to read a woman’s pagne (brightly coloured wax-printed cloth); apparently the saying goes, “you can always tell a woman by her pagne”


want to read Aya de Yopougon? visit here