Review Blog

Aug 18 2016

Figgy and the President by Tamsin Janu

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Figgy series bk 2. Scholastic, 2016. ISBN 9781742991559
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. Award winning author Tamsin Janu continues the story of eleven-year-old Figgy who lives with her Grandma Ama in a small village in Ghana. Orphan Nana who lives with them is very concerned about his future career. As Figgy and Nana sit in the rain catching raindrops in their mouths, Nana describes his ambition to be President of Ghana. He would have unlimited food, travel the world, give to the poor and meet important people. Figgy's goals are similar, travel, food and a having an operation to repair her damaged eye.
Village life is described in a matter-of-fact manner; hand washing clothes, dirt floors inside the huts, school life and buying food from the open-air market. The author realistically portrays the economic, social and cultural backdrop told through the first person account of her feisty protagonist.
Figgy is overwhelmed when her pregnant mother returns. At first she refuses to see her, as she believed her mother was dead. During this difficult time, Figgy auditions for a role in a movie about orphans filmed by a group of Abrunis - white people. She wonders if her career path is acting.
The most challenging events occur after Nana is taken away by his abusive father and sold as a slave to work on a fishing boat. Figgy's ingenuity comes to the fore, and with the aid of Jeffnick their friend and Kwaku the village taxi driver, they set out to rescue Nana. Figgy's life is a busy one; just before she leaves on her rescue mother delivers a baby boy - a brother for Figgy.
Interwoven into the narrative are comments on ethical issues, children forced into slavery, her mother's drug and alcohol abuse, children's rights, orphanage life, parental rights, stealing to survive and the differences between living in poverty and the lives of the wealthy.
Another powerful and moving story from Tamsin Janu, this is a great novel for middle primary students. It introduces the issues of social justice and opens students' eyes to life of children in other countries. Figgy and the President is an excellent resource for Year 4 Geography as a literary focus on the importance of different environments to both people and other living things and as a study of one African country.
Rhyllis Bignell

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