Reviews for Nana Akua goes to school

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

An open-hearted tribute to children with immigrant parents or grandparents. Next Monday is Grandparents Day, and Zura, a brown-skinned girl of African descent, has a problem. Though excited, Zura worries about her classmates’ responses to Nana Akua, who has facial markings—a tradition of the Akan people of Ghana that identifies their tribal family. Sometimes in public, people have made negative comments and stared. When Zura tells Nana Akua her worries at home, Nana pulls out Zura’s favorite quilt, adorned with West African Adinkra symbols, and makes a plan to help Zura’s classmates understand her facial markings. On Grandparents Day, Nana and Zura wear African dresses, and Nana explains her markings, comparing them to tattoos. She invites the children to choose an Adinkra from the quilt, each of which has a meaning (explained on the endpapers), and they and their grandparents enjoy the personal introduction to Adinkras Nana gives them. Harrison contributes spectacular collage art that surrounds Zura’s family with colors, patterns, and objects, such as an African drum, pottery, art, and black dolls, that connect them with West Africa. Harrison also illustrates a full page of Nana Akua’s face, gazing directly at readers. Her brown skin, full lips, gray eyebrows, tufts of gray hair at the edges of her head wrap, and her gorgeous purple, patterned fabrics all invite readers to see Nana Akua. A wonderful springboard for cross-cultural understanding conveyed through deeply symbolic art. (glossary, sources, acknowledgements) (Picture book. 5-9) Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
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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)

School Library Journal
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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