Cover Image: Crossing the Stream

Crossing the Stream

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Member Reviews

Ato has not spoken to his grandmother in years, ever since she and his mom had a falling out. Now, right as he is trying to earn the right to visit the nature preserve his dad helped create, she has come back into his life. What she has to share with him about the past may be just what he needs to recognize and correct current wrongs not only in his life, but his whole town. Ato is a very realistic child protagonist. He feels that he has all of these expectations on him to be as great as his father was. At the same time, he is just a kid, and he'll do things like play practical jokes on people just because, or make mistakes, or have his thoughts influenced so much by the different adult figures in his life that he doesn't know what to think. The villain was a little simple, in terms of character and motivation, but the moment Ato was able to defeat them was very satisfying to see play out. All in all, this will be an enjoyable read for middle readers.
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Ato is a young boy living with his mother in a small village in Ghana.  His dream is to go to Nnoma, an isolated nature preserve that his late father helped to build.  He gets his chance when it is announced that the winners of an ecological science competition will get to experience Nnoma (an opportunity that comes around only every few years).  Ato and his two best friends are ready and have been planning their project for some time.
Since his father's death Ato's mother has been struggling to make ends meet running a small shop.  On the advice of the local prophet she restricted their relationship with Ato's paternal grandmother to a few short visits at their home.  Ato is surprised when she informs him that he will now be spending his weekends with his grandmother.  He loves it there and is enthralled by her stories of his father and the local community.
This sets the stage for a story that is both humourous and adventurous as Ato and his friends uncover what is killing the local plants and animals and question the word of prophet Yakayaka.
There are many good discussion areas and talking points throughout this book.  Parents should note that some of the content areas regarding evil and devotion to a prophet might be difficult for younger middle grade readers to comprehend without an adult providing guided discussion.
Thank you to the author and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this ARC.
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Crossing the Stream is a lovely story from a celebrated author out of Ghana, Elizabeth Irene-Baitie.

Ato is a young boy whose father died when he was quite young. His father is held up, both in Ato's own mind and by Ato's mother, a woman with her own wounds inflicted by the death of her husband.

Ato's father was instrumental in helping complete a beautiful island bird sanctuary called Nnoma, and the story begins with Ato and his friends Dzifa and Leslie starting a vegetable patch using an organic pesticide made by Ato's Nana. They are under near-constant scrutiny from the volatile and smarmy Prophet Yakayaka, who runs the Church of Fire nearby and has Ato's and Leslie's respective mothers completely under his charm.

The story follows Ato and his friends as they set about seeing their project through, finding out the truth about Prophet Yakayaka, and Ato's own journey to learn more about his father as his mother reluctantly lets Nana see Ato every weekend. 

I believe this book would be very enjoyable for the middle grades readers it is aimed at; the plot moves along very nicely with just enough mystery and intrigue to keep readers guessing. As an adult reader, I saw a lot of the plot twists coming, but recalling my reading in younger days, I know I would have been delightfully surprised by the twists in the story.

Ms. Irene-Baite writes in a lovely, simple style that middle grades readers will enjoy, and indeed, I did, as well. Another bonus to this story is that while it is largely about a boy character, his friend Dzifa is portrayed as a smart and capable girl who is level-headed in tricky situations. 

While I would not use this book in my own classroom because it doesn't go with my subject matter, I would recommend it to my students as reading for their own pleasure.
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Crossing the Stream is a beautiful book, intended for a youth-oriented audience but capable of teaching us all much. The prose is clear, the characters are detailed, and the experience is reflective and beautiful. A highly recommended book for classroom libraries and beyond.
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