The Kaya Girl

Little, Brown. Jun. 2022. 336p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316703932.
Gr 4-7–Plenty of kids can relate to being shipped off for the summer. Camps, trips to visit family, or even extra educational classes are common. Adena is no different from most kids that way, but her summer experience with Aunt Lydia certainly will be. Middle graders will enjoy being transported to the sights, sounds, smells, and flavors of the Makola Market in Accra, Ghana, which set the stage for Adena’s summer. At first, her assignment seems to be a punishment, but it soon becomes an endearing story of forbidden friendship. Adena is a student at a private school for the children of wealthy Ghanaians, and Faiza is a kayayoo, a porter for shoppers in the Makola Market. An unlikely pair due to their very different lives, they become fast friends when Adena is sent to live with her aunt. The speed with which the girls overcome their language barrier is a tad unrealistic, but they share plenty of other connections: current fashion fads, music, and cute boys. A few of the phrases and names may present a bit of difficulty for unfamilar readers, but the surprising twist in the latter half of the novel makes the effort all worthwhile.
VERDICT Including subtle yet important history and geography lessons, Wolo’s book gives readers an opportunity to become immersed in West African culture while realizing the lessons of growing up include universal experiences: prejudice, poverty, and self-determination.

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