The Brave Little African Girl
by Thabitha Mathabatha

"She always wondered why being a girl was a problem. Fofo bet if one of her brothers—or any boy for that matter—had done it, the boy would be applauded."

Fofo has always been different from the other kids in her village. It's why she plays and spends time with her older brothers instead. Yet, despite being close to them, she feels a divide whenever she is overprotected and unable to do things on her own like her siblings. It is this impetus that sets the story in motion when she goes out on her own to swim at a spring in the mountains.

Her plan turns to the unexpected when she finds a struggling lion who has just given birth. She doesn't hesitate to help and takes the cub home to the shock of both her aunt and neighbors. Having done what many would believe the unthinkable, rather than being lauded, Fofo finds herself singled out even further because of her bravery. Amidst it all, because of her quick attachment to the cub, she must learn what it means to lose someone and how to let go.

Mathabatha's focus on Fofo's bravery and the feeling of loss that follows informs not only other children but parents that a child's emotions should be acknowledged and addressed properly. It is only once her community stands with her that Fofo is able to find joy in her life again, which harkens on the "It takes a village to raise a child" proverb that emphasizes community is necessary for the healthy growth of children. At the same time, Mathabatha portrays that you must also be appreciative of yourself and not wait to find it in others when she closes the book with a poem titled "A poem praise to self" that both kids and adults will undoubtedly find inspirational.

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