Written by: JaNay Brown-Wood
Illustrated by: Hazel Mitchell
For ages: 6-9 years
Language: English & Maa (Maasai)
Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, African Culture & Traditions, Maasai People, Self-Esteem, Community, Bravery, Perseverance.
Summary: Imani is the smallest in her village, and gets teased relentlessly for it. To make Imani feel better, her mother tells her stories. One night in particular, Imani learns about Olapa, the goddess of the moon who had to fight against the god of the sun and won. Imani’s mother told her that she believe she could accomplish great things, but Imani was the one who had to believe it. Imani goes to bed inspired, and decides she wants to touch the moon. The next morning, she climbs a tree to try and reach the moon, but loses her footing and falls to the ground. Imani’s mother tells her about Anansi the spider, who captured a snake in order to make a name for himself. Imani’s mother assures her that a challenge is only impossible until it is achieved and that she is the one that must believe. The next morning Imani crafts a set of wings out of leaves and sticks, trying to fly to the moon. She is so small that a gust of wind takes her into the air momentarily, until she crashes into a tree. Defeated, she returns to the village. In the village, some warriors had returned home and were performing the adumu, the jumping dance. Fascinated, Imani is unable to look away. The next morning, Imani started to jump. She jumps and jumps, launching herself higher into the sky. Tired and exhausted, Imani jumps one more time and lands on the moon, calling for Olapa! She picks up a moon rock, and floats gently home, back to the village. That night, Imani presents the rock to her mother and told her the story of The Girl Who Touched the Moon.
This book is a fantastic story of resilience, but also an introduction to several African folktales. Integral to the plot, it never feels forced. Instead, these folktales inspire Imani to have courage and persevere with her goal. In the back is also an Author’s Note giving more information about the Maasai and their adumu.
- How do you think Imani feels when she is being teased?
- Why do you think the stories Imani’s mom tell her make her feel better?
- How would you feel if you achieved a big goal you had been working towards, like Imani did?
- How can you be a good friend to someone who is trying over and over to do something?
Continuing the Conversation:
- Imani is part of the Maasai tribe, but that’s not the only tribe that lives in Africa! Learn more about some of the different tribes, or if you have a personal connection to one in particular share what you know and aim to learn even more.
- What is a story that your family tells? Share stories together as a class!
- Imani learns a lot about the folktales that are important to the Maasai, and shape their culture. Write your own tale about what is important to you and shapes who you are as a person.
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Some say JaNay Brown-Wood came right out the womb filled with stories to tell and the unlimited energy and excitement to tell them. She was the type of child that created long, drawn out plays with her Barbie dolls, teddy bears, and Polly Pockets—and these dramas always included singing. In sixth grade, her teacher predicted that she would become a famous author, and JaNay is eagerly making her way down that path as a Teller of Stories.
JaNay grew up with the grapes of Fresno, California within a community overflowing with creative family members and stories to tell. She has two loving and supportive parents, Lee and Marci, and two wonderful sisters, Erin and Taylor; and not to mention a gigantic extended family filled with a grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins, cousins, cousins galore!
Hazel Mitchell is the author and illustrator of Toby from Candlewick Press. She is also the illustrator of Imani’s Moon (Charlesbridge), One Word Pearl (Charlesbridge), Animally (Kane Miller), Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows? (Down East) amongst others.
Before becoming a children’s book creator Hazel served for several years in the British Royal Navy before working as a designer and commercial illustrator in England (her home country) and USA. She attended art college in Great Britain close to her birthplace of Scarborough, Yorkshire.
Now she lives in Maine and works from her home studio. She still misses fish, chips and mushy peas, but is learning to love lobster. She has two poodles, Toby and Lucy, plus a cat called Sleep.