A Gift from Childhood:Memories of an African Boyhood

Baba Wagué is only four years old when he is sent to the tiny Malian village of Kassaro to be raised by his paternal grandparents, according to the family tradition. He is most unhappy about this at first, but under his grandmother’s patient and wise tutelage he comes to love his close-knit village community. He learns how to catch a catfish with his bare hands, flees from an army of bees, and mistakes a hungry albino cobra snake for a pink inner tube. Finally, Grandma Sabou decides that Baba is educated enough to go to school, and he moves back to the city, where his family struggles to provide him with a formal education. But he brings his village stories with him, and in the process of sharing them with his neighborhood uncovers his immense artistic and storytelling talents.

2 thoughts on “A Gift from Childhood:Memories of an African Boyhood

  1. Brittany McGeever says:

    A Gift From Childhood: Memories of an African Boyhood (2010) has many themes in it that will be able to connect students’ thinking. It is definitely intended for an upper elementary to middle school audience. The book deals with family, love, tradition, growing up, hardships, and fearing the unknown. The main character, Baba, lives in a small village in Africa and eventually is able to move into a city to pursue his dream of attending school. Throughout the book, he learns new things each day through his experiences.
    “Stories were more than just a learning tool for my cousins and me. They were like going on an adventure.” (p. 51). Since Baba was a child, he had heard various stories on his family traditions and culture and they were so intriguing to him. He also learned that it is alright to stray from the family and culture’s tradition and do what is best for him. He was very fortunate that his family was supportive of anything that he did. Baba learned to tell his own stories when he was in school and to really appreciate them. “As I celebrated my new opportunity, I never gave up teaching with stories, as I realized that learning goes both ways-to the instructor and to the student.” (p. 116). Baba’s mother, Mama Penda, taught him many things in his life, such as not fearing the unknown. “Take things one day at a time and do not worry too much about tomorrow, because perhaps there is nothing to worry about.” (p. 133).
    This book has very valuable lessons in it that children and other readers will be able to relate to personally.

  2. LaFon Phillips says:

    A Gift from Childhood: Memories of an African Boyhood (2010) by Baba Wagué Diakité is a deeply heartwarming story of his early childhood in the small Malian village of Kassaro. The dedication of this book reveals a small measure of Diakité’s appreciation for the village that raised him:
    A child is simply like wet clay.
    It dries with the shape it is given.
    This book is dedicated to the elders
    Of Kassaro who helped shape me.
    Excerpts from the chapter, “Kassaro,” describe the compound of his grandparents’ village as “a big courtyard ringed with round and square adobe houses facing inward. It housed our family in a circle of life with fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins, brothers and sisters. It was a great place for children to grow up and learn the importance of respect, especially for the elders who preceded us on earth” (p.10).
    The central part of the compound was “the gathering place for storytelling, meetings, solving problems and entertaining guests. Everyone was required to be present at mealtimes…Children were always encouraged to show respect for the meal by not chatting while they ate, showing their appreciation for the grains that nourish us. Sometimes it was so crowded that we had to sit shoulder-to-shoulder in concentric circles — adults behind children. This was the goal: bringing everyone together to feel closeness, acceptance, harmony and tolerance” (p. 11-12).
    The themes of family, tradition, respect and love resonate throughout this book which opens with a vignette of four-year-old Baba Wagué screaming and throwing a furious temper tantrum, “I don’t like it! I don’t like your porridge! It has no sugar. It has no milk….I want to go back to n’fa — my father! He has everything!” Thus begins a good story that you will need to read for yourself.

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