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Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah
Written by Laurie Ann Thompson
Illustrated by Sean Qualls
Random House, 2015, 40 pp.
Emmanuel’s Dream is an inspiring, feel-good story. Emmanuel is born in Ghana with one healthy leg and one deformed leg. Emmanuel’s father runs, believing that Emmanuel is useless and cursed. However, Emmanuel’s mother has faith and she raises him to be strong and independent. When his mother gets sick, Emmanuel has to leave home and earn money in the city to support the family. In the city, people treat him poorly because of his disability, but he does not give up. He decides to send the message that, “being disabled does not mean being unable.” Wearing a shirt that states “The POZO,” which means “the disabled person,” Emmanuel rides a bike around the country, meeting people who cheer him on and eventually make him a hero. Emmanuel successfully completes his journey by riding four hundred miles in ten days.
This heart-warming partial biography is based on a true story. Simple background and an enlarged character’s face draw a reader’s attention to the character’s feelings. Mixed media and warm oranges in the illustrations imply a bright future for Emmanuel. The illustrations introduce contemporary Ghana and deliver a story that has received multiple books awards, including the 2016 Schneider Family Book Award, 2016 ALSC Notable Children’s Book, and 2016 CCBC Choices.
Emmanuel’s dream teaches important life lessons to young readers, such as “never give up,” “pursue your dream no matter what other people say,” and “you can change your life and the world.” These themes can be found in the following picture books as well: 2016 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Winner Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López and Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story written by Paula Yoo and illustrated by Dom Lee (2010). After reading these books, children can discuss or write about what they learned from the main character and what they can do to follow the character’s legacy and make the world a better place.
Emmanuel’s Dream is Laurie Ann Thompson’s first picture book. On her website (http://lauriethompson.com/), she expresses her intention to write books that help children and young adults understand the world and contribute to make it a better place to live. Illustrator Sean Qualls has published multiple children’s books and his artwork has received numerous awards, including the 2009 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award for Before John was a Jazz Giant (2008) by Carole Boston Weatherford. When reading other books by Sean Qualls, readers will notice the unique artistic style he creates. Visit Sean Qualls’ website (www.seanqualls.com) to see his artwork.
Jongsun Wee, Winona State University, Winona, MN