By Aliyu Kamal
Title: The Golden Girl of Galma
Author: Kabiru Abdullahi
Publisher: Nigerian writers/children literature series
Atine Dan Tanimu is a Princess. When she is old enough to get married, her father, the King, invites suitors to come, he asks her to choose one of them as her husband.
When the suitors arrive, she looks one up and says that he is “too dark for her liking” and that he has “a flat nose”.
Armed men descend at night at the Palace and kidnap her after they drugged her father’s guards. They force Atine to marry a herdsman. He takes her away to a far-away village.
On the way, she sees his opulent mansion and regrets her refusal to marry him because he is not educated. She cannot read and begs her husband, Audu Dako, to enrol her in a school.
At his village, he takes her to a hut and asks her to cook with a clay pot. She makes a fire and blows at smoky firewood that makes her eyes watery
There is only a little food left in the hut. To make ends meet, Audu asks her to pound and prepare millet-balls to sell at the local market. They are eaten with milk as porridge and sell very well at that market. Then a mad donkey upsets her wares, making her cry.
Audu gets her a house-keeping job at a rich man’s house but with a twist. It turns out to be her father’s house. He calls her in and leads her to her husband.
Audu admits to her that he has all along been pretending to kidnap and force her to marry him. After all, he had gone and apologised to her father.
Thus, Audu Dako and Princess Atine begin to lead the happy life as a husband and wife.
The Golden Girl of Galma is a commendable piece of literary work by Kabiru Abdullahi. The book and the other dozen children books published by ANA under its Nigerian writers’ series should set the pace for writers throughout the country to write for the nation’s adolescents, who find it difficult nowadays to snatch even an hour, much less two or three, to read a very good edifying book.
The IT revolution has its credits but at worse it causes a great deal of damage, of harm, to our children’s mental and intellectual abilities. When a boy or girl finds no time lie down with a good book but spends hours at end ogling at a cell-phone screen and clicking buttons chatting on nonsense or viewing harmful and diversionary websites, the great need arises for counselling by parents.
Such counselling is best done and succeeds best if there happens to be available what the parent or guardian will ask their wards to turn some of their attention to, such as something good and edifying to read.
The Golden Girl is one such read. It is specially written juvenilia meant to hook its readers until they reach the last page. And the pages are not many.
In the first place, the story is written in a big font size and in double spacing. At most, the largest number of paragraphs per page is four – and even that is rare.
Some pages contain just one paragraph, which doesn’t go beyond half a page.
Where there are up to four or six per page, the paragraphs are narrower and the remaining space filled up with eye-catching illustrations, More on these later.
The writer deftly chose to write short physical paragraphs rather than conceptual ones, Trimble, 1985, with the former containing one main idea each in a topic sentence and the latter, which was not used because of the risk of its becoming too demanding to the reader, one main idea and all its related ideas all of which say all the reader needs to know in the very long paragraph.
The format shows clearly that children read and understand stories best by taking two aspects into consideration, text and illustrations.
In the case of language use, Kabiru Abdullahi applied the style of mixed sentence usage (Hedge, 1989) by using the simple, the compound, the complex and the compound-complex sentences all in the effort to achieve the greatest comprehensibility in reading. Concerning the simple sentence, there is “There was much to eat and drink”.
It is one of the shortest in the whole story. It is very accessible, as it does not contain any new word the adolescent reader will not know.
About the compound sentence, we read “They moved another long distance and spotted a magnificent house”.
Here the drawing of such a house will apparently help the reader to understand the meaning of that adjective qualifying the building. It is imposing, looking like a traditional palace.
As for the complex sentence, we learn that “They rode on horses which were colourfully dressed in local attire”. The shortness of the construction relieves it of some of its complexity of cognition. The saying that one knows a word by the company it keeps explains why dressed will help one to guess the meaning of attire, which may be a new word to many a juvenile reader.
There are a few compound-complex sentences, too, such as, “She walked towards her father like a princess which she was, sat beside him and gave a careless smile of welcome to the suitors and the on-lookers”.
Being short makes it very easy to be read and understood.
Now the illustrations. In general, children books are written along with drawings that help greatly in one making sense of what is read. Those in The Golden Girl are wonderful and beautifully drawn by Mustapha Bulama and Akila Jibril.
They know the traditional Hausa setting of the story; the normal attire; the types of buildings; the description of the royal court with its horses and imposing buildings embossed with the Gordian knot: the juvenile reader will feel at home by admiring the enchanting painting.
If the two painters were to put their hands at that kind of painting one hangs in his sitting room, they will go far and achieve instant world acclaim. Their colour application is lush, making one think of a Miro canvas.
Budding writers of adult and children stories should borrow a leaf from Kabiru Abdullahi and the others and produce a spurt of writing that will help to turn our children’s attention away from mindless internet surfing and browsing towards reading edifying books, such as The Golden Girl of Galma.
That will go a long way in improving their vocabulary, in their framing sentences and in building meaningful paragraphs. To that end, this story of Princess Atine can then be read for both leisure and scholarship.
For those readers not used to regular extensive time reading, a reprint of this interesting storybook will benefit them with a glossary added of some new words, such as contemplated, willowy, exalted and oblong, that they may not be familiar with.