“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Monday, October 6, 2008

Amadi's Snowman • Picture Books

Amadi's Snowman
by Katia Novet Saint-Lot Illustrated by Dimitrea Tokunbo
Newly released • Tilbury House, Publishers • Picture Book
Why does Amadi's mother insist he learn to read words when he is going to be a great businessman?
Story: Amadi, a mischievous young boy in Nigeria, believes he can become a successful businessman without learning to read. But one day, after running away to the market, he spots an older boy reading about a strange white creature with a carrot for a nose. Amadi soon realizes that learning to read will open up new worlds for him, and introduce him to places and ideas he never knew existed outside his village.
Story behind the story: Author Katia Novet Saint-Lot will be doing a virtual tour next month so be sure to check Tilbury House, Publishers for a full schedule as well as suggestions on how to incorporate this topic into a classroom lesson with lots of links on websites to explore for info about Nigeria, related reading titles, activities and much more. Until then, you might be interested in what a few children's industry folk have to say:

"Amadi's Snowman is a beautiful tribute to the power of reading and one boy's journey of self-discovery through books. Dimitrea Tokunbo's evocative illustrations underscore the loving interchange between a mother and son. The richly hued paintings invite us to enjoy Nigeria's many splendors and provide the perfect stage for Katia Novet Saint-Lot's imaginative story." —Andrea Davis Pinkney, Coretta Scott King Honor Author of Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters

"Amadi's first-ever glimpse at a snowman—one depicted in the pages of a book—inspires him to transform from a resistant to an enthusiastic student of reading. Children will identify with Amadi's initial reluctance, his mixed feelings about a new challenge, and his attempts to rationalize staying the same. Yet they also will likely be inspired, as Amadi is, by the possibilities of reading, the way it can fill one's heart and shine a light on the unknown." —Cynthia Leitich Smith, Children's Book Author

-- plus check out an interview with Katia on The Writing Wild Life blog, read some of the wonderful reviews to date from ForeWord magazine as well as The Bees Knees Review.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say about it and be sure to come back as there are more to come!


debnance said...

I would be overjoyed to receive a copy of this book for review. For me, growing up in a very small town, this is the wonder of books: books show you other ways of living.

Anonymous said...

Amadi is a Nigerian boy whose mother wants him to take reading lessons with Mrs. Chikodili, a kind neighbor. Amadi dismisses the importance of reading - he wants to be an "Igbo man," a trader, who relies only on numbers to do business when he gets older. Soon, Amadi spies another young boy reading a book from a merchant's stand - a picture book about snow. Amadi knows nothing about snow and immediately becomes intrigued with what can be found in the pages of books. Amadi passes billboards he cannot read on his way home, and when he arrives, he finds that Mrs. Chikodili has purchased the very book about snow that he had spied earlier. "Yes, he'd learn about snow. And then he'd learn more, because when this book was finished, there'd be others. And the more he learned, the more he'd know."

I wanted to like "Amadi's Snowman," I really did, especially because it sounded like a multicultural book in the vain of "Thank you, Mr. Falker" or "The Hard Times Jar" - glorious books that eschew the values of reading and how we should not take it for granted. However, Amadi's Snowman falls short of achieving what those two picture books did. The paintings by illustrator Dimitrea Tokunbo are vibrantly colored to evoke the fabrics of the Nigerian setting, but many backgrounds are rather plain, and the motions portrayed seems rather static. Illustrations are not full spreads across the page, but are confined to square or rectangular windows with the text printed underneath. In one illustration, Amadi bites into a mango and "licked the sweet juice that ran down his chin," but the picture looks a little bit more like he is kissing a small red balloon. This book wants to be a joyful celebration of reading, but instead it reads as a pedantic tale with pictures that arouse little interest in me, and I fear children might feel the same way.

I would rate this book a 2 - "recommended under certain reading situations."

K-4 School Librarian
Southern NJ

Susan Mello said...

I wasn't sure this book would be able to grab attention. I have so many books about diverse people and the books just sit on my library shelves and collect dust. However, this one is different. It connects several aspects of our American students' lives to the far off place of Africa.
The first is learning to read. The character of Amadi wonders why he should learn to read or why put the effort into learning. He feels he knows everything he needs to know to participate in the market place. This is an issue teachers and librarians deal with on a daily basis; helping students recognize the need for education.

Then Amadi see a picture of a snowman. This is something my students have experienced since birth. In fact, they could teach Amadi a lesson on snowmen. This empowers the readers because they know something that the protagonist doesn't know. (I am not sure how this would work in Texas of Florida where students may not have seen snow either. Maybe it would work also because the students would feel a connection to Amadi.)

The book is overtly didactic which may turn off some readers.

I would give this book a 3; mostly for interest. I am just not sure you could entice children to pick it up although they would enjoy it if they did. I might try it as a read aloud.

Susan Mello
Center School Hopkinton Ma

Ellen said...

Amadi's Snowman covers an important topic - the importance of reading. The words and the pictures are on the right track. The borders on the pictures give a cultural feel and the concept is right on. Unfortunately, the book does not quite make it to the special category. The snow is a pleasant twist to a tale that takes place in Africa.
I give the book a 3.5
It's on the right track and if someone gives it a chance, it is a sweet story with an important moral, although it is extremely didactic.

Theresa G said...

A reading teacher in one of our buildings shares picture books about reading with me - and now i finally get to share one with her!

Amadi is reluctant to go to take lessons each day and doesn't really see a point to them. He would much rather be with the older boys earning money or in the marketplace. He finds a friend in one of the book stalls peering through a book about snow and suddenly finds himself wanting to know more when the merchant arrives and sends them scurrying out.
As he asks his friends about snow and is laughed at - he realizes there is a great deal more to know and that books will help him. When he arrives home, he finds that his teacher has bought him that very book. And so begins his path to learning.
This book would make a great read aloud for younger students or struggling readers to help them understand the power of reading. I liked the fact that it was set in Nigeria, as our state's third grade social studies curriculum is about world communities and teachers would be able to make some nice inter-disciplinary connections. Overall - this is a 4 in my picnic basket.

Amanda said...

Amadi had some great things going for it and then a few things that were not so appealing. I absolutely loved how the concept of learning to read was portrayed, especially in a child that believes reading will not be an important skill in his Nigerian life.

I also was impressed with the inclusion of the book on snowmen in an African country! Amadi truly seemed in awe of the book and when he learned to read it, he showed the appropriate amount of pride in himself, as a young child here would do as well.

I was not a big fan of the dialogue, I felt it was a bit contrived and didn't read well. Unfortunately, I really don't think I would use this as a story time read aloud for that reason.

I also did not feel the illustrations did the story justice. For all of those reasons, I will only give Amadi's Snowman a 3. I cannot see it being a highly circulated book within my library, though if I explain the concept to patrons they may be more likely to check it out.

Amanda Snow
Youth Services Librarian Assistant
New Mexico

Ari said...

I teach middle school, but I love using picture books as examples of what to do with short texts and how to make words powerful. This book would work perfectly for that!
It is an interesting, engaging, heartfelt story.
We were recently focusing on transitional devices and this book uses them very well. I would reread this book because it is beautiful and I will strongly consider using it ever year to model strong writing form my 7th and 8th graders.

I give this book a 4.

KIPP TRUTH Academy Middle School
7th and 8th grade

debnance said...

Amadi*s Snowman by Katia Novet Saint-Lot

It*s difficult, I think, for a book lover to understand those who
don*t get books. Amadi, the main character in this book, is one such
boy, a person who can*t see the use of learning to read. Amadi already
has his whole life mapped out; he sees himself as a successful
businessman in his country and, since he knows his numbers well, cannot
see why he would need to read. Then Amadi runs across his friend in a
bookseller*s stall, turning the pages of a book with a figure he
cannot comprehend, a snowman, and suddenly Amadi is filled with the
desire to learn more about the bigger world by reading.

This book is successful because it feels genuine. Amadi and his mother
and the bookseller and Amadi*s friends all seem to be real people just
around the world from me. The story is simple but powerful and speaks to
the new truth of the need for understanding of other cultures and
societies and the importance of acquiring knowledge and information for
all peoples all over the world.

A wonderful little gem of a book.

Debbie Nance
Stevenson Elementary School

llemma said...

I really, really wanted to like this book. It features African characters and highlights the joys of reading -- perfect for my kids, right? No such luck.

The prose is bad. It's awkward and preachy and it doesn't flow.

The art is very cartoony, very literal, to my untrained eye. There's nothing in the illustrations that enriches or enlarges on what the text has already told you.

And the story... I'm sorry, I try not to Be This Way about everything, but it's very nineteenth-century British colonialist. The naive child's view in this text is that Igbo ways will serve this Igbo child and therefore he does not need to learn to read; the mature view is not that he needs literacy in order to achieve his own existing goals or in order to survive in a modernized and integrated world but in order to read books in English that will teach him about snow, of all things. Just like most white British kids learn to read so they can find out more about Igbo business practices, right?

This is one of those books where you hope against hope before you flip to the back flap that the author isn't another white lady who visited Africa a couple times and thought, "Hey, I know what those kids need."

Again -- no such luck.

Rating: 2, "whatever, free library book."

Tasses said...

I can't remember if I got this title from Picnic Basket, but thought I'd add my two cents as this site is all about finding new children's literature. You can find my thoughts on Amadi's Snowman on Reading RumpusCheryl Tasses
Reading Specialist
Picnic Basket Rating: 4/5