Bookgiving 2017

In this 2017 all my kids getting books and pyjamas because we want to encourage them to (what?) READ and get enough SLEEP (and give their parents a break in this coming 2018th year of our Lord). Some of my kids’ families don’t celebrate Christmas- which is why this is about book-giving.

I try my best to find brown protagonists for my brown babies, introduce them to familiar folklore or re-imaginings of things they may have heard sitting in Grandma’s lap. Because that’s what Book Aunties DO!

I got 9 kids to shop for aged 2 to 13 years.


Afia is my little Ghana princess, my baby ghel. My dolly-child. She loves Disney princesses, legos and taking care of her two big brothers, even when they are mean. A serious petite madam who is always excited to read to me.

What they got: Ada Twist, Scientist Andrea Beatley, With Love from Anna Hibiscus Atinuke

Why I bought it: With Love from Anna Hibiscus was a request, lads, when you get that premier book from a series you are SET. Here is proof- the next book in the Anna Hibiscus series was a request. Like Pokémon- Afia’s trying to catch ’em all! Ada Twist, Scientist is a fun book about a little girl who’s smart as HELL and has a supportive family who encourage her all through her life- just like my girl! Plus it’s cute AF!

Kwasi has been through a lot in his short 13 years. Sometimes I know I spoil and indulge him because I know I want him to feel loved and supported, and now I’m seeing the teen angst and anger sweep through him. I try to find him books that are a bit more mature now so he doesn’t feel like he’s being talked down to.

What they got: Pigeon English Stephen Kelman, The Spider Weaver Margaret Musgrove

Why I bought it: Pidgin English, I wanted to give my boy some more male protagonists who are also black because Mallory Blackman’s Boys Don’t Cry was such a success. The Spider Weaver because well… his mum is always telling me about how  her brothers weave Kente and I didn’t know this story that comes with a mini-history lesson on the fabric. I assume he had too, but I always remember loving having physical copies of Trini folk-tales, not just memories of the oral and thought he’d enjoy the same.

Lizzie is the sweetest little thing! She’s such a nice big sister and is learning how to read for herself, though she still needs help. Her mum was doing my hair and Lizzie came to keep me company all day and read Jack and the Beanstalk with me (her favourite part, that she can recite by heart- little actress in the making: FEE FI FO FUM I SMELL THE PONG OF AN ENGLISHMAN (the publisher changed it from “blood” I guess to make it more child-friendly? don’t @ me)

What they got: Lila and the Secret of the Rain David Conway

Why I bought it: I wanted a cute picture book! Also… like, do y’all know how deep picture books are getting nowadays? I literally love it. This is a cute story about trying to do your best for your community… and the joy when it prevails.

Hannah is my baby sister (who’s 13)! If not in blood, then by face. When we are out together, especially at weddings people are always saying how nice it is to see sisters with our age gap (lol) get on so well. She’s bi-lingual! My girl speaks Twi, cause her daddy taught her, she’s a lil mix of the islands and the motherland, sweetest thing.

What they got: Pigeon English Stephen Kelman

Why I bought it: Honestly I heard bits about this book for the longest while and yes, I bought it TWICE. My girl’s dad is Jamaican and Ghanaian, like I said, she speak Twi! I don’t come across books for kids this age with African protagonists, and even then, harder still for me to find a Ghanaian protagonist? Plus this book is doing bits on the english secondary school curriculum I heard?

Ramalah I’m dying with all these Tweens. Ramalah is a bright girl, she can bake cakes, brownies and doughnuts as well as her professional baker mum. One problem…. she don’t like to read all that much.  Book shopping for Ramalah is like a science experiment, I’m still on the look out for that book that will let her see reading can be fun.

What they got: Zahrah the Windseeker Nnedi Okorafor

Why I bought it: I had so much fun reading Zahrah the Windseeker. It was the first Nnedi Okorafor book that I ever read and it spurred me into reading as much of her work as I could. It feels like Sci-fi and Fantasy all based in Nigerian cultures. The setting is very mystical and feels very solar punk (the people live in interactive house trees, you can GROW computers from seeds!) and the cultures of the characters are vivid af.

Sam is the most serious six year-old you ever met. Despite thanking me for his gift, he let me known that he mostly reads non-fiction and would like a book about science, space, dinosaurs, history or archeology. Yes, in that order. So yes, I have work to do.

What they got: Anna Hibiscus Atinuke

Why I bought it: I’ve had great success buying Anna Hibiscus titles. All the kids I’ve previously bought it for love it. I especially buy these books for my little Naija babies because they’re books their parents love reading these short stories to them as well, as the characters go through situations that the parents may’ve had in Nigeria and tell their kids about when parents go into one of those “back in my day” times.

Shamfa My sweet angel, the love of my life, the light in my heart. My little clone! Who was also born in December. The Terrible Twos are here, and even though she can’t read- she will remind her big, big sisters that what they’ve got in their hands are “[her] book!”

What they got: Twelve Dancing Princesses, Rapunzel, The Princess and the Pea Rachel Isadora

Why I bought it: It was my baby’s birthday. She loves being read to. I love reading books to her! So does her mum and dad. The main pull of purchasing these Rachel Isadora versions of classic fairy tales- my uncle and his partner are very afrocentric and loved that these stories were being given a different cultural setting than the ones we grew up on.

Taymiyah is easy to shop for. My girl will read any and everything under the sun. She’s bendy so I was gonna look into some kid-yoga books, but then I remember just how much she loves reading a book where she and the protagonist are the exact same age.

What they got: President of the Whole Fifth Grade Sherri Winston

Why I bought it: Like I said- easy buy. Taymiyah just went into year six. Last year, I got my girl a book with a protagonist of the similar age- her mum reported that she did not put down that book at all (and is still revisiting it). The cover art of this novel looked cute, and it’s a series! So if she loves it… thats a few gifting opportunities sorted (who doesn’t love a complete set?).

Yaw– Recently bespectacled, my tiny professor. He whinges often, but loves to ask questions. My boy’s first words were chiding Oscar Pistorius for the crocodile tears at the sentencing hearing- he pays more attention to the news than I did… and he was also the easiest to shop for as he’d been asking for one particular book since it came out.

What they got: Jaden Toussaint- The Greatest Episode 1 Marti Dumas , The Getaway Jeff Kinney

Why I bought it: Yaw been asking for The Getaway since it’s pub-date. I promised him I’d get it for his birthday, but it wasn’t published until well after. He lives for this series. Because this birthday he just got the promise of the Getaway and some legos- Jaden Toussaint was a fun extra- this was the best choice, my boy is smart and inquisitive and I thought he’d enjoy a book with a child genius protagonist.


That’s it all folks.

Bookgiving 2017, all done.

Book Auntie antics- over!

Gift-giving as the Book Auntie

I’m at that age now where I don’t exactly qualify as a “child” for Christmas anymore. I’m not as upset about it as I thought I’d be, because this year I finally understood our family rule, “Only the kids get gifts.”

I have accepted  my Auntie position now, and having worked the holiday period in a book store, with a 50% discount on everything on the store floor, of course everyone was getting one thing at least. Books.

Which meant I gained an Auntie category. I’m the Book Auntie now. The Auntie you come to with an amazon reading list the length of your arm, who will either slip you a £20 note when you’re in a book shop and set you loose on the shelves, who will ask you what series you’re collecting and collaborate with your parents so that on birthdays and Christmases you get to tick the latest installation off of your personal “to buy” list.

Everyone I bought a book for was under 14, three of them at that wonderful age where their book choices were tied between the 9-12 age range and the ever widening Teen/ Young Adult section. As a seasoned YA reader, I know that there can be some mature elements that I knew these parents were not comfortable with their children being introduced to. I had to make sure that along the way, I wasn’t exposing them to anything that would push them into maturity closer than they needed to, and in this process got to read books that maybe I wouldn’t have chosen to sit permanently on my own bookshelf.

It was a book a day situation. Sometimes, even the books I bought with the intention to gift (See: Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is also a Star) ended up a resident on my bedside table. I hadn’t read so much, so fast since the summer before I went to university. Then, it was a way to kill time when the schedules of friend’s didn’t link up at the right time or to escape from the boredom of being the only one jobless and vacationless before embarking on that next stage of life that was living at university.

Now, reading became a critical act. I had to take in the styles of the authors, and the actions of the characters. Would X like this long, winding prose? Were the metaphors too flowery? Was the text condescending in anyway? Was the story enjoyable? On the bus, on the train, during my mandated breaks, I would fish a book out of my bag (and I always carried two, incase I completed one earlier than expected), sit and read.

It was like the scene in Ratatouille, when Remy is trying to explain the complimentary tastes of foods perfectly paired to his brother. And after a summer of reading the genre I love only to analyse it, and three weeks reading anything that my Auntie Yvonne could spare from her daughter’s shelves because the lack of books in the family home was killing me it was liberating to have books that I could enjoy… and pass on without that dreadful fear of “I’m never going to see that again” when you loan someone a book.

Because I knew that was already going to happen. I wasn’t going to see these books again because they were bought with someone else in mind. And maybe they’ll have those thoughts in the future when they want to share these stories with their friends.

Today I gave the final gift of books to the last book giftee I acquired through my mum’s Nurse Auntie Conglomerate (Please, I have been running on BPT since the womb, and have only recently showed signs of improving that). She shrieked with joy. She’d been at the very same bookstore I was working at a week before and wanted the two books I’d picked, read and assigned as her gift, but she didn’t have the money to buy them alongside the other four books she’d picked up.

I start to think about my late godmother, who was my Book Auntie and if she felt the same happiness as I do now when I’m being trusted to provide a good selection of literature that encouraged putting the screen down and getting grounded in my own imagination. If she felt the same way as I do now, when doling out these gifts, as she did when I was first presented with So Much or Amazing Grace or Noughts and Crosses or Assassin’s Apprentice, then I know each of these books were given out of love and understanding of my tastes and my interests. And that just makes them all the more precious.