The yuletide season always brings me childhood nostalgia. It’s almost as though Christmas is for children, the food, the new clothes…oh the new clothes. I was heartbroken when I got from school (university) one year and I was told ‘no Christmas cloth for you’. Forget what you heard this life is just one big crusty meat pie, one day you have it and another day it is all gone.
I used to get books for Christmas, and in the spirit of Christmas (nostalgia) I will be doing a mini review of the best books I read growing up. I am going to narrow it down to the top five books I read before I turned ten including my school recommended books.
1. Eze goes to school: This book is a classic and I think every child should read it. Written by Onuorah Nzekwu and Michael Crowder, it tells the story of a young boy Eze, who lived in the village at the time where it was not so popular to have boys sent to school rather than farming. His father had left instructions that Eze was to continue his education and Eze and his mother had to overcome a lot of challenges to carry out that instruction including sabotage by his family members. His biggest help came in the form of a returning soldier Wilberforce Ezeilo.
What made the book super cool for me at that time was the man-eating leopard; it just has a really nice ring to it. MAN EATING. Man-eating? Are there leopards that eat only grass? There are other ‘versions’ of the book like ‘Akin goes to school’, ‘Sani goes to school’ but Eze goes to school is my winner for being the first.
2. Without a silver spoon: This is the story of Ure Chokwe (I love that name). He was a young boy living in the village whose parents really did not have a lot of material wealth but his father taught him a lot about honesty. In his last year of primary school his parents could not afford his fees and in order to prevent him dropping out from school to learn a trade, he got an arrangement with his teacher at school to serve as his house-boy in exchange for payment of his three terms school fees.
Ure had to battle allegations of theft both from school and his teacher’s house as well as humiliation from his friends and school mates for being poor but then good triumphed over evil. Written by Eddie Iroh, the theme of the book is ‘honesty is the best policy’ and is a very good book especially for children to teach early enough.
3. The Trials of Brother Jero : This was written by Wole Soyinka. It contained two plays, the trials of brother Jero and then Jero’s metamorphosis. This book was given to me as a gift in school for my performance that term, I really don’t know what they were playing at but maybe they were trying to teach me meaning of big words because I read the whole book with a dictionary in hand. It tells the story of a prophet in a white garment church, his issues with his congregation and of course money.
In ‘Trials of Brother Jero’ he had problems with the daughters of Eve (that is just a euphemism for the word, women). In Jero’s Metamorphosis, to simply put it things had gotten better. It paints a satirical picture of religious leaders especially in this part of the world and even for a nine-year old the book was laugh out loud funny. Probably the funniest material I have ever read from Soyinka.
4. Chike and the river: A Chinua Achebe classic. This was also a prescribed literature textbook in school. I read it in primary school and then secondary school. The book tells the story of the brave eleven-year old Chike who was sent to live with his uncle in Onitsha. The book was set before the construction of the Niger bridge as he took on the biggest adventure of his life by taking a ferry across the river to Asaba, well things start to go wrong when the ferry leaves him while he was having too much fun. My best character was the Money-miss-road who was described as a man who ‘lived by the bank of the River Niger and washed his hand with spittle’, that was my most profound statement in the book.
5. The gods are not to blame: For the longest time, I called this book ‘the gods are not to blame a play’ because on the cover, I saw ‘a play’ after the title and I just assumed…I felt so stupid when my mum corrected me. It was written by Ola Rotimi and is one of the most brilliantly well told stories ever. The plot was solid, the characters were properly developed and the twist…oh the twist. The background story was of a king whose land was going through a lot of unfortunate events. People were dying, they did not have food to eat and they were very worried. They decided to consult the oracle and they find out that their problems are connected to a prophecy that was given years before about a baby who was destined to kill his father and marry his own mother. I would go ahead with the story but the twist really nails the story and if you have not read the book, I think I have given enough spoilers. Go and get it.
I know I said five but as I was writing this another book came to mind that I just had to mention; No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe. I love Achebe and I think he is phenomenal. This was a continuation of ‘Things fall apart’; it tells the story of Okonkwo’s grandson. At the time I read this book, I had not even read Things fall apart but I was able to follow the story just fine. Obi Okonkwo left the village for a British education and subsequently a job in the Nigerian colonial civil service. He later got into trouble because he was caught taking bribe in a sting operation. I didn’t really finish the book, I stopped after his mother died and he refused to go home for the burial because he had slipped into depression. So, what I want for Christmas (definitely not all) is a copy of No Longer at Ease, throw in the rest of the trilogy and I might just propose.
These books are great for everyone and if you haven’t read any stop depriving yourself and do not deprive children around you too. I did not rate any of them because they are all wonderful books, well written and highly recommended for adults or children.