Friday, December 01, 2006

I can't really say "happy" World AIDS Day, but I would like to draw your attention to the fact that today is indeed World AIDS Day. You can read more at World AIDS Day and World AIDS Campaign. From the latter's website:
New reports by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that, as of 2006, the epidemic continues to spread in every region of the world. By now more than 65 million people have been infected with HIV and well over 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981, 2.9 million in 2006 alone. At this rate, the WHO predicts that in the next 25 years another 117 million people will die, making AIDS the third leading cause of death worldwide.
Both Heinemann and Macmillan are now producing children's/teen readers that deal with HIV/AIDS as subject matter: non-fiction are obviously upfront and graphic (this is only practical), while the fiction ones are often very sensitively handled, with HIV/AIDS as a background theme. Most of the fiction titles in both series have discussion points and puzzles at the back of the books for use by teachers with their pupils. These are geared towards the African schools' market, but I think should be used everywhere.

Set in South Africa, DANCING QUEEN is a gripping story for teens. A young dancer feels trapped with few options and her choices result in her contracting AIDS. While this might sound utterly depressing, the book is great at creating empathy in the reader for the young dancer and ends on a hopeful note for her friends and family. Deborah Ewing succeeds in telling a touching story without lecturing. Nothing twee about this one, the claustrophobia felt by the young dancer (for her perceived choices) makes for some grim reading, but is realistic and sensitively handled.

Glynis Clacherty's SIMON'S STORY is gorgeous (I love the illustrations). It is part of the HIV/AIDS series, but in fact the disease is never actually mentioned. Simon has come to live in an orphanage because both his parents have died. This is really a lovely book exploring grief, for younger readers (maybe 6-9ish?).

Adwoa Badoe's MY SISTER JULIE is a realistically described story from the point of view of Suki, whose older sister Julie, at aged 14, has become head of the household. Again, AIDS is not mentioned directly, but the parents have plainly died of the disease since Suki is teased by other children. The challenges of retaining childhood whilst juggling housework and responsibility are explored.

THE FRIENDSHIP TREE by Catherine House is a charming story about young Chiwila who is devastated that her friend Musosa is ill. Grandmother helps her cope with hugs and advice, so that she can be strong for Musosa throughout her illness. Since there are no direct references to HIV/AIDS in the story (just a mention that Musosa is "very ill") this would be highly suitable for any child with a dying friend; less about grief, and more to do with keeping strong and spirits up while a friend is ill.

To give you some idea of the format, these are readers rather like the Oxford Reading Tree series. For those of you outside the UK not familiar with this, imagine typical readers used in schools worldwide, in which stories are told in simple language for particular age groups.

It is a shame that some of these stories are not produced as picture books - I think they would appeal to a much wider audience, given the chance.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Ann said...

I haven't come across these, Equiano, but will get hold of copies and make sure the students know about them.

5:25 pm  
Blogger equiano said...

You may also be interested in Macmillan's reader series on refugees, some of which are really rather good! I can't speak for them of course, but telling Heinemann and Macmillan that you are a lecturer may well get you samples...(did I say that?!)

11:14 am  
Anonymous adwoa said...

Hi there,
I'm so pleased someone out there is reviewing books published for African kids.

Adwoa Badoe

4:19 am  
Blogger equiano said...

Welcome Adwoa! I am assuming you are the author, in which case let me say how important I think the work is that you do - I have seen your books used as an approachable and accessible way for children to cope with a difficult subject. Although I didn't review it here, I very much liked your IT'S OK TO BE SAD as well. Very best wishes with your future work, and be sure to let me know when you produce something new - I am always happy to write about new books on Africa, as you can tell by the rest of my blog!

8:54 am  

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