________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 5 . . . . October 26, 2007


Otu Goes to Sea.

Noreen Mian. Photos by Kathy Knowles.
Winnipeg, MB: Osu Children’s Library Fund, 2007.
48 pp., pbk., $10.00.
ISBN 978-0-9783384-0-4.

Subject Heading:
Fisheries-Ghana-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-6 / Ages 7-11.

Review by Marilynne V. Black.

*** /4


Today is Saturday. Like most Saturdays, my classmates are fetching water. Later they will do the wash and lay it out on the roadside to dry. During the afternoon, they will play football on a field behind a beach. I cannot join them because I am going to sea.

I know it will be a fine day for fishing. The sun is a perfect ball that hangs low in the sky. It casts a yellow glow through the early morning haze. Out canoe is waiting for us on the beach.

The canoe is very old. When my grandfather was a young boy, he traveled with his father to the forest. They searched a long time to find the best wawa tree. After cutting it down, they stayed in the forest for several weeks to make a strong dugout canoe. It was 18 metres long and could hold 25 people.

They returned to Goi to carve and paint the canoe. My favorite design is the sea bird with a fish near its mouth. We call the canoe FOLLOW ME to honour the birds that guide us to the fish.

Otu, a 14-year-old boy from Ghana, tells about living in a small village, and, in particular, a day accompanying the fishermen going far out to sea. The simple, straightforward text and crisp colourful photographs give the reader a capsule of everyday life for a child in an African coastal village. Through Otu's narration, the reader learns much about a typical child's life but also about the social mores of his village. For instance, he states that onboard the canoe his grandfather eats first, and he, being the youngest, eats last. The reader also learns how the catch is shared, prepared for keeping, and used in cooking.

Uncle Tetteh gives each person in the canoe a share of the day's catch. He sells the remaining fish to fishmongers who wait with their basket. Fishmongers then sell the fish at a higher price and make a profit.

We do not have refrigeration in Goi. My mother must dry, salt or smoke the fish.

Otu Goes to Sea will be very useful in a social studies setting. For example, comparisons could be made between how the men from Goi make their fishing boat and those made by other native groups such as the Pacific Northwest Haidas or the Peruvian fishermen of Lake Titicaca.

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     A brief mention that sometimes there are no fish in the nets underscores their dependence on this resource and could lead to discussions about the dwindling of world-wide natural resources in general. Another discussion could be undertaken as to why the sea turtle caught in their net is thrown back.

     The text is printed in a large type font, thereby making the book very easy to read. In addition, the text never takes up more than three quarters of the page thus allowing for ample white space.

     At the beginning of the book, a simple map of Africa highlights Ghana's location. In addition, a short letter from "Auntie Noreen" explains how she lived in the community of Goi. Along with a glossary of terms appended at the back, these features lend authenticity to the book.


Marilynne V. Black is a former B.C. elementary teacher-librarian who completed her Master of Arts in Children's Literature (UBC) in the spring of 2005. She is now working as an independent children's literature consultant with a web site.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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