Reviewed by Dr. Jordan Alexander for Readers' Favorite
Soso and The Kako Leaf by Bella Disu begins on the morning of Soso’s ninth birthday on a special date, the ninth of September. Soso is preoccupied with two things. The first is if she will get the nail polish kit and purple hair extensions she wants. The second is how she could wear her new pretty dress to the birthday party without people seeing her birthmark. Soso feels insecure as her birthmark seems to grow bigger each year. Before her party, Soso’s family must take her brother to football practice. While her brother goes to the playing field, Soso occupies herself in the nearby garden. It isn’t long before her real birthday adventure begins. Following a trail of strange-shaped mounds that turn out to be kako leaves, Soso finds herself traveling into a magical underground land. She meets a village of people dressed in traditional costumes and learns about her heritage and the prophecy of one with a special birthmark. Will Soso learn to be brave and defend her people? Will she make it back to her birthday party above ground? Does her new party dress make it to the celebration?
This delightful children’s book is written by Bella Disu, a Nigerian author committed to sharing her passion for cultural folktales with the next generation. Disu weaves an authentic story that teaches young readers to be brave and to rely on heritage and tradition to help them be courageous. Soso and The Kako Leaf brings a deeper understanding of culture to a young audience while contributing to raising the reader’s self-esteem. The story is supported by fabulous illustrations by Awele Emili. The visuals add depth to the story by featuring authentic colors, face tattoos, and ethnic costumes. They easily take the reader from modern-day to traditional times and back again. The combined story and illustrations leave the reader enriched with Soso’s courageous journey and the deeper context of her traditional people and beliefs. Soso and The Kako Leaf is a relatable story worth sharing in our modern world where it is easy to forget to celebrate who you are and where you come from. This a great message for young readers as they grow up and learn to walk tall in our diverse global society.