This month’s blog is a guest post by D Yael Bernhard and reprinted from her site with permission.
Meet Yaya! This energetic young fellow is the main character in my forthcoming picture book, Yaya, Come Here!, to be published by Open Hearts Big Dreams, a wonderful literacy program that is bringing books to over 40 million children in Ethiopia. I am honored to be a contributing author and illustrator.
But Yaya isn’t from Ethiopia, or even East Africa – he’s from Guinea, which sits 5,500 miles away on the coast of West Africa. I wrote the story eighteen years ago when I traveled there to study the indigenous dance and music of the region. When Open Hearts Big Dreams approached me about a different book contract, I asked if children in East Africa would like to learn about a child in West Africa. The answer was a resounding yes! And why not? Many African children have access to few books, and those books that do reach their hands often tell of European or American kids. Why shouldn’t they have a peek into the lives of children on other parts of their own continent?
A peek is what my future readers will get, as they follow the life of a little boy who runs from place to place through a typical day in his busy village. Yaya chases a lizard; climbs a papaya tree; gathers firewood for his mother; fashions a toy from the inner ring of a tire; sells mangoes in the market; attends a soccer game; and finally ends up at a community wedding celebration called a dounounbah.
How gratifying it is for me to bring a different aspect of my life – African dance and drumming, which I have practiced for 36 years – into my work as a children’s book author and illustrator. The book is full of details that are familiar to me from three trips to West Africa. Guinea is one of my favorite places on earth, full of lush forests, vibrant colors, friendly people, and high-energy rhythm and dance. This is one book that could never have been researched in a library or on the internet, but only by walking the red volcanic earth and breathing the sun-baked breeze of West Africa.
Yaya, Come Here! will be a bilingual book, with each spread in English and Amharic, one of the native languages of Ethiopia. It will also be available on Amazon. I’ll write another post when the book comes out.
A good week to all!
D Yael Bernhard