Amani the Boda-Boda Rider is a charming book with powerful messages for both children and adults.
Paul Sutherland’s illustrated children’s book, Amani the Boda-Boda Rider, is the lively story of a young Ugandan Muslim girl whose dream for herself puts her at odds with her culture’s traditions and beliefs about what girls can and cannot do. Honoring the dreamer in every child, the book brings to mind other courageous young people whose stand for human rights is making the world a better, fairer place.
Young Amani has dreamed of being a commercial boda-boda (motorcycle) rider since she was very small. But even though her father is a boda-boda repairman and allows Amani to help him, no one supports her dream—girls just don’t ride boda-bodas.
Amani refuses to give up on her goal. She even imagines bigger and better things for herself—maybe she could be an astronaut, or fly a plane or helicopter. But despite the appeal of these possibilities, her heart is set on her simple dream. Sent to live with her grandparents, Amani revels in her grandfather’s fanciful stories of his days as a boda-boda rider, and her hopes are kindled anew.
When Amani asks her grandparents if it’s true that girls can’t be boda-boda riders, they turn to the Quran, their community’s religious leaders, and friends of different faiths for answers. All agree that nowhere is it written that girls can’t be boda-boda riders.
Amani, with her grandfather’s help, works hard, learns to ride well, and uses her skills and knowledge of safety rules to become a valued member of her community and an inspiration to other girls to follow their dreams.
Bahizi Jovan’s vibrant, colorful illustrations bring Amani and her surroundings to life, and the words of inspiration that have been incorporated into the images add depth and an element of surprise.
The book offers excellent pacing, appropriate vocabulary, thought-provoking ideas, and many opportunities for discussion of the limitations societies and religions may place on their members, how they can be changed, and why they should be.
The text presents occasional errors in syntax and word usage, several punctuation errors, a missing capital letter, several missing words, and inconsistent hyphen usage. There is also a place in which a speech bubble is covering the text.
The story of how the boda-boda got its name reveals some of the troubled history of three African countries, and the last short chapter offers valuable safety advice for boda-boda riders and passengers.
Amani the Boda-Boda Rider is a charming book with powerful messages for both children and adults. Touching on topics as timely and profound as gender equality, the importance of family and community, religious tolerance, the need to be responsible with our skills and abilities, and how our talents can be used to serve others, it shows how individuals and communities are blessed when minds and hearts are open to seeking the truth together in love.
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