Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

A Bibliography of Ghanaian Children's Storybooks in English

Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

A Bibliography of Ghanaian Children's Storybooks in English

Article excerpt


Written children's literature in Ghana is fairly recent. Before the arrival of the missionaries and the colonialists who introduced formal education and literacy into Ghana, parents and grandparents drew upon the rich stock of traditional Ghanaian folklore to entertain and educate both young and old. When creative writing began in Ghana, the writers did not pay much attention to writing stories for children; they rather concentrated on adult literature. casely Hayford's Ethiopia Unbound (1911) generally thought to be the first indigenous creative effort has now been superseded by Marita: Or The Folly of Love which was serialized in the Western Echo (a newspaper) between 1886 and 1888. Marita is generally credited to Hutton Brew as the anonymous "native writer."

According to deGraft Hanson (1993) a probable factor for the delay in the development of written literature for children in Ghana may be the availability, at that time, of cheap and plentiful foreign books for children. These foreign books neither reflected the Ghanaian physical, social nor cultural environment. By independence, the creative stimulus was awakened in Ghanaian writers as a result of the ferment of ideas that accompanied the independence drive. The pride in nationhood which, in most cases, goes hand in hand with showcasing the cultural heritage, dictated that books reflecting the social and cultural Ghanaian environment be made available for children.

As a result, the emergent writers for children turned to the oral tradition of folktales, myths and legends, which constitutes a body of literature in its own right with a special significance for children, as a primary resource for children's literature. Some of these writers translated the tales into English; in some cases, they collected and transcribed them in the local languages. Others however went beyond transcription and translation to adaptation. Another group of writers simply used these traditional tales for creating other imaginative stories, drawing on the techniques and other features they found potent in the oral tradition. Traditional literature therefore plays a particularly crucial role in the genesis of Ghanaian as well as other African children's literature.

We may situate the beginnings of written Ghanaian children's literature with Efua Sutherland's Playtime in Africa (1960), written four years after the country attained independence. Other notable writers for children in Ghana include Meshack Asare, J.O. deGraft Hanson, Peggy Appiah, Abenaa Korama and Akosua Gyamfuaa-Fofie. By virtue of sheer effort and volume, these six writers stand head and shoulders above other writers for children in Ghana.

Meshack Asare, born in Nyankumasi in the Central Region of Ghana in 1945, is not only a writer for children but a seasoned illustrator as well. His Tawia Goes to Sea (1970) received a UNESCO citation as the 'best picture book from Africa.' The Brassman's secret (1981) won the NOMA award in the category of Children's Literature in 1982 and Cat in Search of a Friend (1984) won the Austrian National Book Award in 1985. Additionally, The Magic Goat won the Toyota Children's Literature Foundation Picture Storybook Award in Ghana in 1999. Recently, Sosu's Call (1997) was among Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century. It is the combination of the various skills of illustration, literary expertise and keen insight into the psychology of children that makes Asare one of the most important writers for children in Ghana and Africa.

J.O. deGraft Hanson is another prolific writer of children's books in Ghana. He was born in Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana in 1932. He is a versatile writer in terms of themes and subject matter, but one can say that he is mainly preoccupied with nurturing the cultural sensitivity of Ghanaian children by presenting them with books reconstituting the myths and legends of the Akan of Ghana. His ability to translate history, myth and legend into exciting and enjoyable stories for children places him in the ranks of the best writers for children in Ghana. …

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