Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Blog Tour: Emmanuel's Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson

Emmanuel's Dream: the true story of Emmanuel Ofusu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. unpgd. Schwartz & Wade/ Random House Children's Books, January 6, 2015. 9780449817445. (Finished copy courtesy of Blueslip Media for review.)

Parents, educators and librarians looking for a gentle story of inspiration, courage and determination need look no further than this book. It is the story of Emmanuel Ofusu Yeboah, who was born with a deformed leg in Ghana to a mother who accepted her son and his deformity.  In Ghana, the prevailing notion was that babies born with deformities were cursed. Parents were encouraged to abandon or even kill these infants. Emmanuel's mother, Comfort, could not and loved her son unconditionally. Emmanuel's father could not accept his son and left the family. In fact, that scene depicting the father leaving mother, child and grandmother behind as he leaves their hut is heartbreaking.

Ensuing pages show that Comfort nurtured Emmanuel but did not baby him. She expected him to fetch water and he even shined shoes to earn money. When it came time for Emmanuel to start school, Comfort carried him there. He was the only child with a disability at school and endured being excluded. As a solution, he saved his money and purchased a soccer ball and learned to play using the crutches that his grandmother was able to find for him. When he became too heavy for his mother to carry him to school, he hopped there.

He left school at the age of thirteen when his mother became too ill to work in order to support the family. No one would hire him. He was expected to take to the streets to beg. A food vendor hired him to work at his stall and when Emmanuel wasn't busy preparing food, he shined shoes and sent his money home to support his family. 

He was able to return home to visit before his mother died. Her last words to him were, "Be respectful, take care of your family, don't ever beg. And don't give up." He returned to his job contemplating how he would honor those words. "He would honor them by showing everyone that being disabled does not mean being unable." He found a way to raise money for a bicycle and decided to bike across Ghana to raise money and awareness. 

The text is spare and poetic. Its slightly matter-of-fact tone doesn't hit the reader over the head with its message. The message is amazing but Ms. Thompson trusts Emmanuel's actions to speak for themselves. The collage illustrations are spare as well. The peachy beige background allow the figures to pop. The warm skin tones and vibrant colors of the clothing of Emmanuel, his family and friends engage the eye. There's energy, there's sadness, there's joy. It all tumbles out of the pages.

An author's note provides additional information about Emmanuel's continued efforts, including the suggestion to visit the Emmanuel Education Foundation and Sports Academy website for more information.

I recommend this to introduce a unit on social justice or disability awareness for young readers all the way through middle school. It would be very easy to follow the reading with discussion and follow that with a viewing of the documentary, Emmanuel's Gift. 

Other bloggers have posted a series of interviews with the author. Click on the links below to read these. Thanks to Barb at Blueslip Media for the chance to read Emmanuel's Dream.

Mon, Jan 12: Great Kid Books
Tues, Jan 13: 5 Minutes for Books
Wed, Jan 14: Unleashing Readers
Thurs, Jan 15: Sharpread
Fri, Jan 16: Cracking the Cover
Sat, Jan 17: Booking Mama
Mon, Jan 19: Once Upon a Story
Wed, Jan 21: Geo Librarian
Thurs, Jan 22: Nonfiction Detectives
Fri, Jan 23: The Fourth Musketeer
Mon, Jan 26: NC Teacher Stuff
Tues, Jan 27: 
Teach Mentor Texts

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