Monday, February 2, 2015

Book Review: Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, by Laurie Ann Thompson & Sean Qualls (Schwartz & Wade books, 2015)

Recommended for ages 5 and up.

This inspiring picture book by author Laurie Ann Thompson tells the moving true story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, a young man born with a severe disability in rural Ghana who nonetheless bicycled across the entire country, raising awareness for disabled people throughout Africa and around the world.

The book opens with a touching tableau--a beautiful baby boy has been born, but with only one strong leg.  We can see the despair in the father's posture and the fear in the mother's eyes as she looks at the baby's father.  Disabled children in Ghana were not only considered worthless-they were considered a curse, and the baby's father soon abandons the family.  The mother's hope is seen in her naming the baby "Emmanuel," which means "God is with us."

Emmanuel's mother refuses to allow her child to become a beggar, as was the custom for disabled people in Ghana; instead she helps him to become self-sufficient, hopping to school, two miles each way.  When his classmates scorned him, he saves money to buy something no one in the school had--a real soccer ball, and earns their respect by learning to play on just one leg.  When his mother falls ill, Emmanuel moves to the big city to earn money to support his family.  Sadly, his mother dies, but he honors her memory by dreaming up a way to show that disabled people could do anything--a bike ride around his country--nearly 400 miles.  Support for what others deemed an impossible project came all the way from America, along with the equipment he needed.  We see Emmanuel riding across the country, surrounded people cheering, including disabled countrymen.  Thompson concludes this inspiring story as follows:  "He completed his astounding just ten days. But Emmanuel's success goes even further than that. He proved that one leg is enough to do great things--and one person is enough to change the world."

In her first picture book, author Laurie Ann Thompson admirably succeeds in her mission of teaching children about social justice issues, a campaign she began in her young adult nonfiction book, Be a Changemaker, a how-to book for young social entrepreneurs.  Thompson's tale is enhanced with mixed media illustrations by award-winning children's illustrator Sean Qualls (Before John Was a Jazz Giant and Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat among others).  He uses a "primitive" style of illustration, relying on collage and paint to convey the emotion of Emmanuel's story.

An author's note explains that Emmanuel has continued to achieve great things, competing in major athletic events, carrying the Olympic torch, and starring in a documentary about his life, Emmanuel's Gift, which I will be putting on my Netflix queue.  He continues to work to help disabled people, particularly in Ghana, realize their full potential.

This is a wonderful book to share with elementary school children; for older children it can be paired with viewing the documentary.


Mary said...

Thanks for posting this review! Books that encourage social justice are so important for kids.

Crazy Ask said...

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