A children’s storybook published by ComMattersKenya in July 2005 in Nairobi, has received rave reviews in Kenyan, UK, and Tanzanian media. T The book, Braggart’s Day, is an adventure story revolving around a 12-year-old boy who trudges deeper into the dark equatorial forest in spite of the dangers lurking behind sky-clutching trees, man-eating plants, angry rivers that swallow humans and octopus-like creepers that trap all and sundry in search of medicine for his ailing sister.
The story is set around Kakamega Forest, the eastern arm of the fast diminishing African equatorial forest, in western Kenya. The 24-page book (ISBN 9966 7069 0 9) was written and edited under the direction of children aged 6-12-years old in order to appeal to children in middle and upper primary school.
While Sunday Nation describes Braggart’s Day as “an enthralling children’s story relying heavily on traditional idiom” with a good ending that will delight children, The Standard says it is “a fast-paced story whose riveting drama and universal themes capture the imagination of children and adults alike.” The Kenyan Spectator says, “The language used to craft the story is simple, the plot easy to follow and the twists and turns gripping as the story races towards a satisfying ending.” Although a children’s book, the weekly notes, Braggart’s Day is nevertheless “good for all ages.” Rose Wanjiku, the weekly’s book reviewer, however notes that the pace is “too fast and should have slowed down a little to give the reader a chance to catch their breath.” Really? The People Daily says the children’s book addresses the importance of division of labour in the rural African village family, and reminisces on the olden days nostalgically without forgetting to teach modern children where they come from. By spicing up the story with humour, reviewer Nkirote Gikunda says the author manages to keep young readers turning pages. Braggart’s Day, she says, is set to thrill adults who enjoy creative writing. Silverse Anami, Kenya’s Director of Culture, says Braggart’s Day, is an “important resource for students of social sciences, environmental studies, linguistics and philosophy.” Anami of the Culture Ministry sees the values of respect, tolerance, courage, love, and cooperation as having taken the central place in Braggart’s Day, that, he says, highlights interaction between humanity and environment.
The belief systems, family structures, indigenous knowledge and the technological idiosyncrasies of the Luyia people upon whose culture the story is based, Anami observes, are what propel communities to sustainable development
Saying Braggart’s Day,demonstrates the importance of language as a functional instrument upon which human behaviour is constructed and disseminated, Anami notes that culture is the foundation upon which development is built. Though set in a Kenyan village, writer Ogova Ondego tells the story within a timeless frame and addresses universal themes of love, sacrifice and pride that easily appeal to anybody, anywhere
BBC Radio of the UK and Daily News of Tanzania have also covered the book, that draws its title from a Luyia saying “Imbongo yilolekhanga mumabukha” (heroism is revealed through tragedy), favourably. Braggart’s Day, that sells at KSh150 (US$2), can be classified variously as Adventure, Ethnic, Historical, Literary, Suspense, Contemporary, Juvenile, Regional, Young Adult, and Short Story. ComMattersKenya, that also publishes ArtMatters.Info that covers visual and performing arts and culture in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda and the Indian Ocean Islands, plans to release five more books before the end of 2005 and then will be issuing an average 10 titles every year in its effort to help fill the gap in culturally-appropriate books written by eastern Africans for Africa and the African Diaspora.
Braggart’s Day is available in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Kampala. Orders can also be placed directly with ComMattersKenya office in Philadelphia House, 4th Floor, Tom Mboya Street, Nairobi, Kenya. P O Box 20775-00100 GPO, Nairobi, Kenya