I am so pleased to bring you this post! In it, my eldest daughter River, age 7, reviews a beautiful story called “The Girl with the Magic Hands” by Nnedi Okorafor. Nnedi rightfully earned the 2012 Black Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Literature (fiction). Her novels, listed in their order of publication, include: Zahrah the Windseeker (2008 winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature); The Shadow Speaker (winner of the CBS Parallax award and Essence Magazine Literary Award finalist); Akata Witch (An Amazon.com Best Book of 2011); and, Who Fears Death (2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Fantasy Novel, 2012 Kindred Award).
Nnedi wrote this particular story, “The Girl with the Magic Hands” for Worldreader, an organization whose mission is to “make digital books available to children and their families in the developing world, so millions of people can improve their lives.” As of January 2013, Worldreader has donated almost half a million e-books to over 3,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa. Purchasing your own Kindle copy for just $2.99 at Amazon.com makes an immediate impact by providing access to even greater literacy.
I purchased a copy of this story for my daughter as a way of introducing her to Nnedi, the artist, and to examples of superb creative writing. She was already familiar with Nnedi, “Anya’s mom”, from the gym in our former neighborhood, but not as an author. “The Girl with the Magic Hands” fit the bill for River because it is as equally imaginative and engaging as Nnedi’s books intended for older audiences, but empowering and challenging enough in ways that a younger artist such as herself can understand.
I listened curiously as River read this gem of a story over three or four nights. Sometimes we took turns at reading, but most times, I simply listened. After the first night, I had to put away the Kindle so she wouldn’t sneak off and read ahead without me. (I didn’t want to miss anything!) Not only were we both enjoying a great story, we were also relishing our special time together, alone. She related to Chidera as an artist, and I became endeared to the story as a mother seeking to balance her child’s artistic talents while also giving her the freedom to blossom naturally, in her own time.
Though River has a great awareness of her gifts, she is careful not to display them too openly; however, reading this story kept her eyes wide open, and made her come alive in a new way. Learning that Chidera could create such beauty with her own hands and that, that beauty could create such inspiration to all who saw it, seemed to make her feel a bit less guarded. My heart smiled the entire time. Thank you, Nnedi!
In her own words, here is River’s review of “The Girl with the Magic Hands”:
I’d recommend “The Girl with the Magic Hands” for everybody because it is very interesting and a great book for young readers, especially me.
My favorite part was when Chidera started her own business to paint people’s houses. I’m an artist and this book encouraged me to get up in my own world and be creative and draw. Chidera seems a little shy in the beginning, but towards the middle and the end, she seems to get more renowned and powerful. As she grows she started gaining instincts. Maybe when Chidera is no longer alive, the Igbos will probably make a museum named the Chidera Institute with all her creations or instead, people could just drive by their own houses and say, “Chidera painted that!”
I think this story is interesting because a shy, young girl becomes a famous artist, a mean dad becomes the proudest dad ever, and a quiet and sad mom becomes famous for selling her figurines that Chidera did uli on. I think Mama Ugo would be very proud of Chidera. And that right there, was my review of “The Girl with the Magic Hands”!
Thank you, River. There’s transforming power in your hands, love, just as there is in a story well told. Though it appears magical to some, it is your gift. Use your hands to paint it and your words to tell it. Like Chidera, there’s power in your magic!