Grandfather's Work : A Traditional Healer in Nigeria
Grandfather's Work : A Traditional Healer in Nigeria.
Brookfield, Conn.: Millbrook Press, 1998. $13.93,
Note: A child describes the work of his grandfather, a traditional healer in a Nigerian village, comparing it to the work of other family members. Includes information about plants used in healing.
Grandfather's Work: A Traditional Healer in Nigeria Reviewed
Grandfather's Work is one of several books Nigerian photographer Ifeoma Onyefulu has written about her
homeland. An apparent mix of fact and fiction, Grandfather's Work was inspired by the memory of the author's late
grandfather. The story is told in the first person by a young boy who appears to be in the same age group as
members of the target audience, ages four to eight. In language easily understandable to this population, he tells
about his family members and their occupations. The book is illustrated with bright, color photographs that provide
a glimpse of real Africans at work.
The strength of this book lies in the author's depiction of family relationships and the various occupations the family
members pursue. Grandmother is a seamstress, father is a teacher, and mother owns a bakery. One uncle is a
woodcarver, one "makes things out of iron", another is a lawyer. An older aunt is a potter and a younger one is a
doctor. Grandfather, the focus of the book, is a healer. Most of the jobs will be familiar to children everywhere. The
exceptions may be healer and blacksmith.
Onyefulu has provided a real service by describing the work of an African healer. English-language books
frequently depict this job in crude and stereotypical ways. She dispels such nonsense by showing a grandfatherly
healer collecting and describing several important medicinal plants including okpokolo (a root that reduces fevers),
osencha (a pain medication), nsi ebilibi(a stomach soother), and dogoyaro (a treatment for malaria). In a note at the
end of the book, she gives the scientific names for two of these plants.
There are weaknesses in the book. Onyefulu's photographs of people and the work they perform are clear but some
are too static for parents or teachers to engage children in thinking skills. For example, when we are introduced to
"Uncle Law" we are told that he is an attorney. Unfortunately, we do not actually see him practicing law. He merely
stands there in his black robe and wig. Also one wishes there was a photograph of the blacksmith working directly
with iron. The picture shows him pumping a bellows. Although this is part of the iron-making process children and
adults who unfamiliar with blacksmithing and might not get the point.
The map she included is another area of concern. It seems as though Nigeria was added only as a afterthought. Bold
lines define Nigeria within the continent of Africa but no states or cities in Nigeria are demarcated. Nigeria is a huge
country and it would help to establish the location of the story if more details had been included.
Despite these criticisms, the book is a worthwhile addition to libraries and home collections. It offers children and
adults the opportunity to engage in dialogue about Nigerians, healing and occupations generally. I recommend it for
ages six to ten.
Citation: Dianne W. Oyler . "Review of Ifeoma Onyefulu, Grandfather's Work: A Traditional Healer in Nigeria," H-AfrTeach, H-Net
Reviews, October, 1999. URL: http://www.h-net.msu.edu/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=20065942090327.
Copyright ⌐ 1999, H-Net, all rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational use if proper credit is given to
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Reviewed by: Dianne W. Oyler, Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, NC.
Subject: Nigeria / West Africa / Fiction