Thursday, November 13, 2008

Reading: The Gift of a Lifetime

I've been thinking a lot about reading, gifts, and the holidays ... no doubt due to the buzz in the kidlitosphere.
First there is the November Carnival of Children's literature and the theme: the gift of reading. Next, Amy (My Friend Amy's blog) launched a Buy Books for the Holidays campaign. Lots of people have jumped in, and you can, too. Then we created a spot where you can find books on a theme to help you select good books. And yesterday, Colleen Mondor (Chasing Ray) announced her 12 Days of Book Recommendations effort that will begin the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Then I read Amadi's Snowman by Katia Novet Saint-Lot, illustrated by Dimitrea Tokunbo (Tilbury House Publishers, 2008). It was the next book in the picture book TBR pile. One word: Wow! This is the book to read if you want to understand how some kids (boys?) see reading ... and be armed with a way to make them curious learners.

Story Summary
Amadi is a young Nigerian boy who loves to play. He has learned his numbers so that he can be a trader. So why does his mother want him to learn how to read words? He has all the knowledge he needs. One day as he was wandering the market, he spotted Chima, an older boy, looking at a book. Amadi was curious, and began to ask questions about one of the pictures: a boy wearing lots of clothes, standing next to an animal with a carrot-shaped nose. Amadi first asked questions about the book, but then asked Chima if he knew how to read ... and why. Chima replied tersely: "To know more, that's what for."

Chima's words were not enough to convince Amadi that he should learn to read, but the pictures of the book stuck with him, and he wanted to learn more. It seemed everywhere he looked he saw words. He had never noticed them before. When he gets home, the book is there waiting for him. As he holds the book and looks at the pages, he begins to see the possibilities.

My Review
This is an enjoyable, compelling read. Although the story is told in third person, it is easy to become Amadi's shadow. As someone who is passionate about literacy, you wish every teacher and librarian could share it with their students and patrons. Amadi's reasoning for not wanting to read follows a logic pattern that kids will recognize. They will nod their heads in agreement. Will the message of Amadi's Snowman resonate with every child? No. But it will resonate with some. It is one of Amadi's peers (not an adult) who opens his mind. Just as Chima's words stayed with Amadi, the events in this story may stay with a young reader. With a Flesch Kincaid readability at 3.2 (GRL M, Reading Recovery 22), it is a good match for a reluctant reader who still isn't convinced of the need to read.

While the power of reading is a key theme, it is not the only one. Just as Amadi has a chance to learn about snow in places far away, kids reading this book can learn about the Ibo (African people) and Nigeria.

This may not be the book you purchase as a holiday gift. It will, however, inspire you to buy books for the holidays.

More Reviews and Information

5 Minutes for Books - blog book review
Bri Meets books - blog book review
Kabiliana - author and illustrator interview
The Shelf Elf - blog book review
Literary Safari - blog book review
My Readable Feast - blog book review
Paper Tigers - author interview, virtual blog tour
Reading Tub - website review

You can visit the Amadi's Snowman page at the Tilbury House website for more information about this book, including classroom ideas to encourage and engage readers.


  1. I can't wait to read that book! I have a boy who LOVES to be read to, but has no desire to read himself. Maybe it will help us both! :)

  2. Hooray! Another splendid Amadi review--and thank you for mentioning the PaperTigers interview with Katia!

  3. I love this book too. As an artist, I especially love how the snowman illustration stuck in Amadi's mind and made him curious enough to want to learn to read. I posted a review at beeskneesbooks and was fortunate to get an interview by both the author and iluustrator and some great family photos! 7imps has an interview with some beautiful illustrations by Dimitrea too.

  4. What a great looking book! Thanks for sharing.

    FYI, Here's a link to the November carnival of children's literature on the Gift of Reading -- thanks for mentioning it!

  5. Here is a live link for the November Carnival of Children's Literature on the Gift of Reading.


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