A Kiss for Akaraka

Richard Jackson, illus. by E.B. Goodale. Greenwillow, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-265196-9
While raking leaves on a blustery day, Lula and her father talk about the girl’s imaginary friend, Akaraka (an author’s note credits the name to his young granddaughter’s early murmurings, but notes that it is also a “meaningful word to Igbo-speaking people of southwestern Nigeria”). Daddy can’t see her, but he honors what her existence says about his daughter’s imagination, and so he offers a tribute (“Oh Aka oh raka, sing to us, please,/ like the wind sings”), credits her with helping “sweep” the leaves (“Hard work for two/ but a breeze for three,” he says), and invites her to join the family for lunch. Lula remains firmly in control of the fantasy: she informs “silly” Daddy that while Akaraka can’t sing, she would like a bowl of chocolate pudding (which Lula ultimately consumes herself). Jackson (This Beautiful Day) has created a lovely hybrid, a cross between a poem and the kind of freewheeling, allusive conversation that often unfolds between a parent and child (“‘Her name, Lula-bee. Where—?’ ‘I dreamed it, Daddy.’ ”) Gentle ink-and-watercolor art by Goodale (Windows) lets readers observe the loving interplay between parent and child, rendering magical moments, indeed. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/09/2018
Release date: 09/01/2018
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