Simi Visits Grandma: Tales From Jalingo; Cue the Nostalgia.
Going into Simi Visits Grandma, we were not sure what to expect. Being Jamaicans, we are from a culture that still retained stories influenced heavily by our African heritage.
Set in Nigeria, this story of a small girl meeting her grandmother for the first time in her father's village and hearing a tale of a very arrogant and selfish tortoise, brought forth memories of us learning of our very own trickster, Anansi the spider.
Osewa utilized easily accessible prose that would indeed catch and maintain the attention of children. What stood out was how vivid and relatable the story and characters were; an exuberant child, bubbling with energy that is both endearing and a bit exasperating to her parents, who are loving, but also firm and a grandma who teaches life lessons through stories.
As the family sets out on their journey to the village, we see the emergence of Osewa's attention to detail. The vibrancy with which the market scene was described, Simi's father's interaction with a fruit vendor, along with the inventiveness of a group of young tailors and textiles sellers, really showcased how dedicated to atmosphere and scenic building Osewa was. The inclusion of illustrations also enhanced our enjoyment of this story.
As with stories that are based in folklore, there are lessons on building character and treating everyone fairly and kindly. Reading Simi's story brought back so many childhood memories of being taught through oral storytelling, the tricks that Anansi would play on family and friends. Ijapa in his mannerisms and dealings with the other animals in the kingdom of Jalingo, showed his true colours. In his community's time of need, Ijapa took the opportunity to elevate his standing and that of his family; but then he wanted more and that is what led to his inevitable downfall.
Folktales are incredibly important in keeping culture alive, and transmitting it to new generations in written story form ensures that they will be around for a long time. Any book that can remind us of home and past folktales will definitely have a special place in our hearts, and this one definitely did.