Crossing the Stream by Elizabeth Irene-Baitie was much more than I bargained for. This middle grade novel features a mystery and some important themes surrounding abuse of power.
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The summary, from Amazon:
“A powerful coming-of-age story of self-discovery and overcoming fear.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Ato hasn’t visited his grandmother’s house since he was seven. He’s heard the rumors that she’s a witch, and his mother has told him he must never sit on the old couch on her porch. Now here he is, on that exact couch, with a strange-looking drink his grandmother has given him, wondering if the rumors are true. What’s more, there’s a freshly dug hole in her yard that Ato suspects may be a grave meant for him.
Meanwhile at school, Ato and his friends have entered a competition to win entry to Nnoma, the island bird sanctuary that Ato’s father helped created. But something is poisoning the community garden where their project is housed, and Ato sets out to track down the culprit. In doing so, he brings his estranged mother and grandmother back together, and begins healing the wounds left on the family by his father’s death years before.
And that hole in the yard? It is a grave, but not for the purpose Ato feared, and its use brings a tender, celebratory ending to this deeply felt and universal story of healing and love from one of Ghana’s most admired children’s book authors.
Buy Crossing the Stream here.
One thing I have to say about Crossing the Stream is I don’t think the blurb really describes what the story is about. Yes, Ato wants to visit the bird sanctuary and develops a relationship with his grandmother, but so much more was going on. When Ato and his friends realize the plants (and soon, the animals) in their town are dying, they set out to unravel the mystery as to how. Meanwhile, they become suspicious of the Prophet, a sort of religious leader who has the entire town in his grip. Ato grows closer with his estranged grandmother and discovers that sometimes adults make mistakes when their judgment is clouded by fear, but they can set out to right their wrongs.
This was a really interesting read and while I didn’t enjoy the writing style at first, it grew on me. I loved Ato’s bird metaphors throughout the novel and how he thought of himself as a peregrine falcon. I will note, the dog dies in this one. Overall, this was a satisfying and interesting 4 star middle grade read.
Find out more about how I rate books here.
Crossing the Stream by Elizabeth Irene-Baitie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Wow, this one really grew on me as I read it. Powerful.
Book Club Questions
- Did you expect Ato’s grandmother to bury what she did at the end of the book? Why or why not?
- How do the different characters grow over the course of the novel?
- Discuss the theme of fear in this story and how it crops up.
- How does the Prophet abuse his power and why does he do so?
Interested? Buy Crossing the Stream.
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