(I use the Mummy, read… series to highlight books that my five year old, has enjoyed or is currently enjoying.)
A peep of chickens live in “Baba Issa’s dusty compound in Adabraka near the Holy Spirit Cathedral”. The hens, Batan and Batan Pa, are wary of Koku the cockerel.
Batan Pa said, “I know he is only trying to protect us, but he is too proud and quick-tempered.” Koku could not hear what Batan and Batan Pa were saying but from they way they perched together and stole glances, he knew that they were talking about him.
It appears that cockerel has been quite over-zealous in his duties – huffing, puffing, screeching and generally making a loud nuisance of himself. Koku, on the other hand, shrugs off their complaints:
“I don’t care.” He thought to himself. “They are only jealous, because I have a beautiful comb and wattle on top of my head.” Koku was half right, Batan was a little jealous of Koku’s bright red comb and wattle. However, she was also jealous because Baby Hajia had paid her no attention since Koku arrived at the house.
Baby Hajia is Baba Issa’s precocious daughter and is loved by all in the compound. Batan had been her favorite pet prior to Koku’s arrival. But now, she is totally smitten with Koku and has started taking him out when she runs errands. How’s a young cockerel to feel, with all the special treatment and his good looks? Proud, of course, and the hens are definitely not happy about that! One can tell that they yearn to take him down a peg or two. The opportunity does come but not in the way that the hens had imagined.
This day begins with a lot of commotion in the compound. Baba Issa orders all the tenants to clean their rooms. Carpenters and painters are hired to repair, paint and generally spruce up the compound house. This activity makes the hens nervous:
Batan Pa got a little anxious. “Are they having a party? Is there going to be chicken soup?” she fretted. “When have we been chased around this house to be put in soup?” Batan asked. “Did you not see a box of old frozen chickens they brought from abrokyiri”?
All the preparations and cooking was for the arrival of Baba Issa’s son, who’d been living overseas. A big, dark blue car brings the landlord’s son to the compound. Koku thinks he sees a “cockerel in the car” as it was driven out of the compound.
“Did the landlord’s son bring a cockerel from abroad?”
Koku is so incensed that he picks a quarrel with cockerel in the car and he pecks and pecks at the this upstart of a cockerel who imitates everything that he Koku does.
This delights the hens:
“Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha”. He could hear the two hens cackling. Batan fell off her perch from laughing so hard. “Have you finished fighting with yourself?” Batan Pa asked…. “Not all battles should be fought young cockerel.”
Koku the Cockerel (2010) is a wonderful story. First of all, I love that it is situated in urban Ghana. The depictions of urban communal living, of urban life and its use of landmark buildings in Accra lends a modern touch to the tale. And yet the story of the chickens and their behaviour is as old as time. This is a book that all kids (and adults) can enjoy. The illustrations are striking and very well-done. The author, Franka Maria Andoh, celebrates our lives and the way that we live in this book. This is important. Often, the well-illustrated books for children that are available in Ghana are written for a Western audience.
My five-year-old has instructed me to say this:
- He “really really really likes the book” and,
- It is “really really really funny”.
What more can I add to such ringing endorsement?
A final note: The author and I are friends. My son, after our first reading, turned to the back cover and noticed a picture of the author. He promptly said, “Mummy, Auntie Franka is the writer.” It was the first time that he had used the word writer. I was very impressed indeed. I know, parents, right? It takes very little to get us gushing!
About the author: Franka Maria Andoh, restauranteur and author studied Communications at Croydon Business College. Franka has worked in the hospitality, Food PR and Styling industry for fifteen year. She owns a cafe in Accra, Ghana called Cuppa Cappuccino. (Cuppa is a good place to eat, relax and read a book. Do check it out if when you are in Accra)