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Book Reading: Birds of Our Land – A Child’s Guide to West African Birds

Author: Virginia Dike
Publisher: Cassava Republic Press
Publication date: November 2011
Pages: 40 pp
Format: Soft cover/PaperbackISBN-13: 978-978-90609-0-0
Edition: Second

Subject: Children/Young Adult/Library/General Literature/ Environmental studies/Biology/ General Science

SYNOPSIS

When the author moved to Nigeria in the early 1970s with her young family, she discovered
that Nigeria has so many fascinated birds that she wanted to share with her children and
other children. But she couldn’t find books on Nigerian or West African birds. Instead, the
bookshops had lots of books about birds from the United States and Britain. This gave birth to
Birds of Our Land, a child’s guide to West African birds with the aim of introducing children to
some of the many fascinating birds around them. It explains the basic features of birds and key
things to note in observing them and is accompanied by beautiful paintings by illustrator Robin
Gowen of 25 birds representing the major species in the region. Most of these are birds that
children are likely to come across in most parts of West Africa, while a few are less familiar but
amazing in some way.

Through its rich, poetic descriptions Birds of Our Land offers children a gateway to the natural
world by introducing them to the basics of bird watching. This book also includes activities
relating to birds and a guide for teachers and parents. It is more than a great read. Birds of Our
Land is the perfect tool for parents and educators encouraging children to spend more time
outdoors exploring the world of nature and giving them an appreciation of the beauty and
interdependence of all forms of life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Virginia Dike is a professor and head of the Department of Library and Information Science at
the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She grew up in the United States and has a BA in History
from Harvard University and an MA in Education and an MSc in Library Science, both
from Columbia University. She is a founding member of The Children Centre Library at the
University of Nigeria in Nsukka. She is an American by birth and Nigerian by marriage and has
five children.

When Virginia Dike moved to the country in the early 1970s with her young family, she
discovered that Nigeria had so many fascinating birds and she wanted to share them with her
children and other children. But she couldn’t find books on Nigerian or West African birds.
Instead, the bookshops had plenty of books about birds from the United States and Britain.

So in 1986, the professor of Library Studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, decided to
write Birds of Our Land, a child’s guide to West African birds that aimed to introduce children and
adults to some of the many captivating birds around them. This month, Cassava Republic Press,
an Abuja-based book publisher, is reissuing this classic book with entirely new illustrations and
an activities page.

More than a great read

Through its rich, poetic descriptions Birds of Our Land offers children a gateway to the natural
world by introducing them to the basics of bird watching. It explains the basic features of birds
and key things to note in observing them. The book is accompanied by beautiful paintings by
illustrator Robin Gowen of 25 birds representing the major species in the region. Most are
birds that children are likely to come across in their own yards, while a few are less familiar but
amazing in some way. This book also comes with a wall poster of all the birds and a guide for
teachers and parents.

One special feature of the new revised edition is that it features each bird’s name in the three
main Nigerian languages: Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. Children, especially those in urban centres,
will be introduced to indigenous terms showing that English is not the only language for naming
things in the natural environment.

Birds of Our Land is more than a great read. It is the perfect tool for parents and educators
encouraging children to spend more time outdoors exploring the world of nature and giving
them an appreciation of the beauty and interdependence of all forms of life.

A passion for nature

Author Virginia Dike is the head of the Department of Library and Information Science at
the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She has a BA in History from Harvard University, an MA
in Education and an MSc in Library Science, both from Columbia University. She is also a
founding member of The Children Centre Library at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka.
Though not an environmentalist, Dike has had a lifelong passion for nature.

“I believe that if we want Nigerian children to know and appreciate the gift of nature, we need
to provide books that will foster that knowledge and appreciation by reflecting the natural world
around them,” she said.

She notes that non-fiction literature is a much-neglected area in Nigerian children’s books and
that what is available – to some extent – are textbooks.

“Yet children need information books written as literature to satisfy their curiosity,” Dike said. “I
believe that if we want Nigerian children to know and appreciate the gift of nature, we need to
provide books that will foster that knowledge and appreciation by reflecting the natural world
around them.”

A new kind of children’s literature

The book is part of a broader drive by Cassava Republic to change the way children’s literature
in Africa is regarded. Birds of Our Land is the first in a series of reference books that will not only
increase children’s knowledge, but enhance their understanding of the natural world around
them. Others books in the series will focus on trees, flowers, the seasons and many more.

Cassava Republic is also passionately committed to ensuring that affordable, beautifully-made
books are available to the Nigerian market. Birds of Our Land is sure to be a valuable addition to
what is a growing pool of high-quality local literature.

Birds of Our Land: A Child’s Guide to West African Birds will be available in February 2012. For
more information about placing pre-orders, or if you would like to conduct and email interview
with the author, contact: info@cassavarepublic.biz or call: 0818 580 2634.

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