Thursday, July 28, 2016

Aquila the Eagle by Yaa Asabea Boafo, Dennis Owusu-Ansaa

Rating: WARTY!

Note this was an advance review copy obtained from Net Galley for which I thank the publisher!

There are some amazing names here. It's copyrighted to Miriam P Boafo, and nicely illustrated by Dennis Owusu-Ansaa, and this book is for young children. It follows a small family of bald eagles. Dad is described with a pronoun which has an initial cap ("Himself") like this male eagle is a god, but it's his wife who is doing all the work in laying the egg! An eagle egg is about three inches long. That's some size to have to deal with!

The story is accurate in that eagles do mate for life, and they build huge nests over time, so the one depicted here is a starter kit, evidently. Young Aquila appears when snow is still on the ground, and the impression we get is that this story will follow his adventures, but in the end, it was nothing more than a prologue, and I was disappointed in it. Other than the eagle being born and our meeting the two children, nothing happens in over thirty pages!

I first looked at this on my phone, and I have to say that is not the best medium for reading this! The images are oddly broken-up and the text is badly formatted. Viewed in Adobe Digital Editions on a desktop computer, it looked much, much better, and displayed the artwork to full advantage. I haven't seen a print version or been able to look at it on my iPad yet (Net Galley was down when I tried to download to the tablet), but I imagine it will look good there.

The eagles, I have to say, are very anthropomorphized. This will work for young children, but it's rather misleading. Eagles, aside from their lifelong pairing, are solitary. By that, I mean that they don't flock, yet there is a gathering depicted here, and young Aquila is declared special by a matronly wise-old eagle. This story has a religious agenda, and Aquila is evidently some sort of Messianic figure. Eagles can live for half a century, but young Aquila is just beginning his life. He has golden down, which is unusual, and is eating all his food. He's going to grow strong. Meanwhile, we meet Benji and the oddly-named Faithlyn, playing in their house because of the snow and cold outside (eagles nest very early in the year). They see an eagle, a grown one, but do not meet any, so the cover illustration is very misleading.

So my main problem was that the story really isn't a story; it's an introduction, and introductions and prologues are the very thing I routinely skip when reading a book, because they rarely deliver anything that's worth the time spent in reading them. Another problem I had with this is that mom is shown in a traditional role in the kitchen. There's nothing wrong with being a traditional mom, but it's depicted so often in children's books that it amounts to brainwashing girls: you are hereby found guilty of womanhood! You are sentenced to life in the kitchen without the possibility of parole! I wish writers and artists would allow girls to decide for themselves what they will do with their life. Instead, just like the eagles, they're imaged and imagined as fulfilling no role other than one traditionally set in stone - or in this case, in the kitchen - and this when we're about to elected the USA's first female president! We need to ditch that paradigm - or at least show dad in that same role just as often. No dad is in evidence here, other than Aquila's dad, BTW.

Given these issues, I really cannot recommend it in good faith. I wish the writer success in her endeavor, but it's not one with which I can get on board.

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