A friend of a friend wrote a children’s book and you tell me: what are friends for?

Jennifer and Jojo: Friends Forever, written for children aged 7 to 8 years old, is the story of two young girls. Jennifer is black and has lived in Kenya all her life; Jojo is a white expat girl born in a country far across the ocean. Her family has made Kenya its temporary home. The girls go to school together, play together, and vow to keep their friendship alive even after Jojo’s family is transferred to another country.

Written in free verse, Jennifer and Jojo’s story celebrates a loving friendship that transcends the limitations of sameness and local community, and touches on the importance of education, family, and gender equality –– but its most important message is that people everywhere are very much alike.

My own ties to Kenya are strong. As a teenager, I had the great good fortune to live five years in the Kenyan capitol, Nairobi. It was my home in every sense of the word. My friends, in those early years of the country’s new independence, formed a kaleidoscope of nationalities and cultures, and we learned from each other a lesson that has since informed my life: that we humans are all far more similar than different.

When I returned to Nairobi to research my graduate thesis on Kenyan children’s books, I spoke with many young readers who complained about the lack of entertaining stories that reflected their lives: modern, urban, international, and firmly rooted in Kenya. Jennifer and Jojo, Friends Forever was written for them.

The book was published by Kenya Literature Bureau and approved for use in public schools by the Kenya Institute for Education. Its publication has been partially subsidized by the World Bank. All profits will remain in Kenya, where the book will be marketed primarily to Kenyan schoolchildren and recreational readers, but I believe Jennifer and Jojo, Friends Forever will also appeal to American children. This is not just a book about Africa, but an African book in content, style of illustration, and production –– an introduction to a distant land and its people, and a tangible piece of contemporary Africana.

Africa is so much more than the place of great tragedies –– starvation, corruption, and tribal warfare –– we have come to think it. Many Africans lead lives that would be considered perfectly ordinary by any western standard. Truly, there are more similarities than differences between us! It is my hope that Jennifer and Jojo, Friends Forever will help create a new, more realistic perception of Africa, one young reader at a time.

~ Jolanda Alkemade

Skrivet av Ch. den 11 mar 09:13 | Anmäl
Tillhör kategorierna: mänskligt , uppfostran , ungdomar , samhälle , språk , litteratur

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