I saw this book on the shelf at Barnes & Nobles a week or two ago when I took one of my sons to buy a reward book. It looked interesting, especially after reading about the Maasai people in Out of Africa earlier this year. I wrote down the name and author, then checked this out from the library last night. I knew it was a memoir, but didn’t realize it was a juvenile memoir sponsored by National Geographic. It certainly reads like a NG book – each chapter is like a five minute documentary (though I’m definitely not interested in seeing a mini-doc on tribal circumcision ceremonies…).
At first, I sort of struggled to get through the chapters. I’m used to books with a lot more detail, elaboration, and depth, and this was very surface level. It’s written for kids, not for adults. But as I pushed on, the boredom and exasperation passed, and by the end, I did find that I learned things. Not in the same way that Isak Dinesen taught me – rather than feeling like I’d experienced the African savanna, I felt as if someone who’d once lived there had told me stories about it. Storytelling has its merits, and is pleasurable. I’m not sure how much of this book I’ll remember a year from now, but it made a light, short, healthy break from my current Harry Potter streak, which is always useful. And the book does have a good, inspiring message, especially for kids who face monstrous obstacles in their lives.