Inhabiting the magical world of Sule’s storybook for children

The art of storytelling for children in the country is far from what it should be, and still lacking development. There are yawning gaps to be filled. It was why the genre was not awarded a prize in 2015 at The Nigerian Prize for Literature, sponsored by Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) company. A remedial programme was then held for aspiring writers in that critical genre.

Children’s literature is as important as the one for adults. Yet in spite of the obvious gap, a good number of storybooks for children are freely used in nursery and primary schools, especially private schools.

These unschooled writers are filling a void where good writers ought to be plying their trade. What you find is that in most such texts for pupils, there are errors of grammar and wrong sequence of events. However, what these texts lack in quality content they make up with colourful pictures that captivate the children’s imagination.

But Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) has stepped in to fill this void, with its publication of three children’s books from its Children’s Literature Series. The three storybooks were presented to the public at the association’s last convention in Makurdi, Benue State, held in October 2017. The slim of volume of storybooks are Salamatu Sule’s Oma the Drummer Queen, Kabiru Abdullahi’s The Golden Girl of Galma and Chinyere Obi-Obasi’s The Loyal Queen.

In Oma the Drummer Queen, Sule tells the story of an ill-fated hunter who is dodged by ill-luck and makes very little or no catch where his colleagues are smiling home after every hunting expenditure. Of course, his wife Asake is not always happy whenever he husband Aremu returns home empty-handed; she would scold him for not being a good hunter. One day Aremu goes hunting and forgets that it is a sacred day in Ebedi Iseyin; he encounters a voice berating him for his foolishness in disobeying the law.

Aremu is scared; in his bid to make his wife happy, he forgot what the day was. He begins to plead for forgiveness. Then the voice tasks him to work in a farm, which he obediently does. As reward fro his obedience, he is given a drum and instructed to beat it, as it would make him a famous drummer in the land. But Aremu protests his gift; he is not a drummer but a hunter. But he takes home his drum nevertheless and tells his wife what happened. When the occasion arises, he beats his drum to the admiration of those mocking him in the presence of the king and he is made the chief drummer on account of his uncommon skills.

But Aremu dies before his wife delivers his only daughter, Oma, who then inherits the drum. But society does not recognise female drummers. Not even her mother supports Oma in her quest to inherit her father’s drumming trade. But Oma is insistent; she wishes to be a drummer like her father while also attending school.

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