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Children’s Book Review: Sunne’s Gift by Ama Karikari-Yawson

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sunneI really wanted to love Sunne’s Gift. Here’s the publisher’s description that had me intrigued:

God imbues Sunne with the power of the sun. Sunne’s siblings, Earth, Watre, and Winde have unique powers of their own. When Sunne is teased by siblings because of Sunne’s different hair, Sunne desperately tries to change. Join Sunne as Sunne learns that there is beauty and power in difference.

I’m all about the elemental powers of the universe as a pagan-y mom. Hope #1 was that it would introduce my toddler to these concepts.

The author’s bio made me even more expectant of greatness:

Ms. Yawson[‘s] unique understanding of social issues, business and the law has enabled her to become a relevant voice on issues as varied as race relations, women’s issues, dating, parenting, self-love, hair-bullying and entrepreneurship.

In 2013 a painful experience in which a barber called her that her son a real “nig***” and said that his hair was not pretty and should be shaved off inspired Ms. Yawson to venture into writing children’s books. Her first picture book, Sunne’s Gift is about a magical being with spirally hair that grows toward the sun named Sunne. Sunne’s three straight-haired siblings, who also have magical powers, poke fun of Sunne’s hair. Sunne starts beating the spirals of hair to fit in, but as a result the sun stops shining.

With this story, Ms. Yawson hopes to affirm afro-textured hair while promoting a culture of love and acceptance in which readers learn that there is beauty and power in difference and that celebrating diversity is not just “nice to do,” it is essential for our survival.

What a great way to make something positive of a horribly offensive experience. And what a magnificent, mythic way to make a point about the value of diversity and personal gifts and traits. Man, did I want this book to live up to the premise.

But I’m sad to say it doesn’t. The artwork is just a touch amateurish, like a fairly gifted high schooler illustrated it. That would be forgivable though. The bigger fault is the changing tone of the book. It begins in the mythic register of diction, sounding very much like some culture’s creation story. But when the other siblings mock Sunne, they use contemporary playground taunts, and it just doesn’t jive.

So as much as I wish I could recommend this, I sadly cannot. But I hope perhaps there’s a chance for a second edition that could right these sophomoric mistakes to achieve the greatness of concept.

Author: Erin Perry

I'm a high school English teacher specializing in AP Literature and Film Analysis. I'm interested in most things geeky, including superheroes, vampires, zombies, teen culture, postmodern philosophy, pop culture analysis, and combinations of the aforementioned. Follow me on Twitter @eriuperry.

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