Dede Akai
by Michael Ofori-Mankata
Trafford Publishing

"˜'Twa! Omanye aba! Twa Omanye aba!' Then the people responded: 'Long live Dede Akai! Long live the Ga nation!'"

Recast for children in this African folktale, the age-old lesson that power can corrupt is always relevant. Ofori-Mankata, a Ghana native who lived for many years in the United States, tells the story of Dede Akai. The beautiful young queen becomes head of her husband's nation, Ga, upon his death. Dede Akai does some good things early in her reign, most notably creating a council of elders to assist her in governing. But soon she begins to overstep. Her demands–to bring her a live leopard, to dig a well without using modern tools are terribly difficult for her countrymen to fulfill and lead to great resentment. Ultimately, such demands almost cost Dede Akai her life, as her subjects convince her to jump into the uncompleted well. That Dede Akai is saved by a wise man who insists she be pulled from the well is wonderfully poignant; even corrupt officials deserve mercy. However, the consequence–Dede Akai is maimed in her jump and must pass the crown to her son–is a great llesson about the dangers of arrogant leadership.

Ofori-Mankata nicely blends into his narrative poetry, song, and traditional African language. Often the translation of traditional language, such as the word "kpokpoi," an important festival food, is gently incorporated. Other times such language is purposely left untranslated, lending great cultural flavor. The illustrations, while simple and somewhat unpolished, effectively trace Dede Akai's progression from love-struck teen to mature leader. A beautiful story, well-told, that transcends time and culture.

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