Today’s book moves us to yet another part of the world: Africa. Precious and the Mystery at Meerkat Hill by Alexander McCall Smith (Polygon).
Dominic: Interesting. It is set in a different country. Normal books are set in Europe but this one’s set in Africa. The pictures in red, grey and black made a nice effect.
Emma: It was funny when the meerkat ended up on the teacher’s head. I like the bit where the meerkat has a ride on the cow.
Grace (Dominic and Emma’s cousin – 10): It was very descriptive and I actually felt like I was in Africa! My favourite bit was at the end where it was talking about how meerkats sleep at night time.
Precious Ramotswe is the protagonist of the best-selling novel “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”. This chapter book for children, written in English, tells of Precious growing up in Botswana and starting to use her detective skills. In this story, two new children start at her school and Precious makes an effort to get to know them realising along the way that the children have no shoes and their small house sleeps six. When the family’s cow goes missing, Precious steps in to help find her.
We found this gem in the local library. I really enjoyed sharing this one with the kids and opening their eyes to how other people live. Despite being a longer book, Emma was just as engaged with this as Dominic. It led to discussions about life in Africa and how some people don’t have shoes and how important having a cow can be to a family’s livelihood.
Being based on a familiar school situation, the kids could identify with the children despite the new surroundings. The award-winning illustrations are amazing and really add to the narrative. The drawings of the African girls with short hair led to a discussion with Emma about how it is fine for girls to have short hair, just as boys can have long hair.
I have to admit that Dominic’s comment on this one really hit home: “Normal books are set in Europe”. It shouldn’t be that books set in other countries are not seen as “normal”. They should be a regular part of our children’s reading experience, telling them about the world we live in, and clearly I need to make more of an effort in the future to ensure that such books are available to my children.
For anyone interested in introducing Precious to younger readers, the good news is that there are further books in this series of young Precious books.