I love books. My love for books led me into dealing in books, so there is no bookshop worthy of its name in Accra that I do not know. Even the Catholic bookshop that is hidden in a very tight corner of Adabraka has felt the presence of my legs. Sometimes when someone asks me about a book, my mind immediately goes directly to where the book is in that particular bookshop. So the day when I got a message from Samiha that she wants Game of Thrones, I immediately knew I could get it from Vidya Bookstore at Labone.
I delivered the book to her with my rickety motorbike, and that began a series of delivery engagements between us. I delivered jewellery, clothes to her customers in Nima, Maamobi, Madina, Newtown etc. – until one day I delivered a book to Patriot Faisal Cisse, the Personal Assistant to the then Minister of Inner Cities and Zongo Development now the National Petroleum Authority boss, Mustapha Hamid.
As usual between Faisal and me, anytime I deliver a book to him, there is a marathon conversation that ensues between us at the Osu Castle where his office is. That day he said: “Maazi, read this book and give me your impression”. Within twenty minutes I was done reading it and I told him the book drew inspiration from Herbert Spencer’s best-seller Who Moved My Cheese? Who Moved My Cheese is a book with four mice characters, Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw that teaches about how to deal with change in your life and in your work – but that’s a discussion for another day. Today, we’re talking about Rabbital Kingdom.
It is important to note that Rabbital Kingdom is for children. Though it’s for children, its philosophy spreads to adulthood and it is very relevant in these times of changing fortunes. It should be in every library at home – at least, if there’s no other book in your home this particular one should be. Growing up as a child, I read a lot of those fairy tales and stories that I could relate to only on the literacy level but not on that personal or deeper level.
I read Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs but I’m yet to witness any snow in Nima; and for dwarfs, hearing the folktales about them suffices. I read Gingerbread man, bread being baked that jumped from the oven, was given a hot chase, and ran and ran till it found itself in the jaws of a wolf. I read The Three little pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, Wizard of Oz, Cinderella, Rapunzel etc. My personal favorite was The Pied Piper of Hamelin.
But as I stated earlier, I could relate to these stories only at a non-personal level or little beyond their literary quality. That is why I am happy to see the launch of this book. “A group of rabbits is faced with the toughest challenge of their lives; their once happy and peaceful kingdom is threatened by famine and death. Led by their brave king and queen, they embark on a dangerous journey to find a better and safer land. This is a story of courage, kindness, hope and new beginnings.”
This book really touched me, especially since it has to do with courage. And I need courage to survive in this seemingly accursed continent, seemingly directionless country and marginalised community I come from. Without courage, I can’t handle the pressure of poverty, ignorance and the level of deprivation in town.
The book is a forty-two pager written by a lady who has an unflinching passion for child development. It is child-friendly, written in simple, clear and lucid English language. Our children need it badly. We have to prepare our children to appreciate the fact that adversity will come, trials and tribulations will show their twin ugly faces, life may hit them with a big blow. The most important thing is how you bounce back and move on.
In the book, the once happy Rabbital Kingdom experiences a period of gloom. Gloominess of famine and ravages of hunger. They had to abandon their kingdom in search of survival. Hence, before our children will grow and appreciate the numerous religious exhortations for migration, this book will have laid that foundation for them.
Perhaps if we had all read this book in our young ages we would have appreciated leadership of the country, community and home; that the welfare of the people determines the effectiveness of their leadership. In the book, King Samad becomes so worried about the hunger that engulfs his people he moves heaven and earth to attain a favourable condition for them.
Perhaps if we all had this book in our young ages we would have fully appreciated the strength of a woman. The woman is great – a woman came to the Holy Prophet of Islam with a troubled mind and petitioned him on an issue. The whole chapter 58 of the Quran came to support her fully.
In the book, Queen Safina advised the king to try another place. She convinced him by saying: “My king, king of all kings, let us not fear change. Maybe there is something better out there. We have been here for many years and we have used up all the good things in this land. There is nothing left here for us. Leaving will give the land some rest in order to get its nutrients back. We can come back if we don’t find a better place. My Lord, please.”
The crux of the book is change, which is the only constant thing in life. Personally, when I tried one university and failed I put myself into another – and today I am also a graduate who got featured on my university’s website for raising the banner of the school aloft in my community work. We therefore need this book to teach our children the fact that, sometimes, they must try new things, abandon their long-held beliefs and embrace another. The world is dynamic; it is not static. Chinua Achebe stated in his Things Fall Apart that: “The world is like a mask dancing; if you want to see it well, you do not stand in one place”.
One important fact captured in Rabbital Kingdom is that as King Samad moved his people from their land, things got more difficult along the way and in the end it was all hunky-dory. Thus, the book teaches our kids that “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end”. The gorgeous aspect was captured by the book so nicely. “They saw the most beautiful view they had ever seen; waterfalls surrounded by hills decorated with beautiful flowers of different colours, shapes and sizes. Behind the mountains was a vast land full of carrots, lettuce, apples and fruit they had not seen before. Queen Safina and the princesses danced around and sang excitedly. They rushed back and told the others the wonderful things they had seen”.
The book teaches hope, which is a much-needed ingredient in this turbulent world of ours. We only have ‘hope’ to show we are still alive; to show better days will come. The person without hope is dead and our children must be taught this succinctly. The poet Langston Hughes captures it well. He opined that “Without hope, life is a broken winged-bird that can’t fly”.
Rabbital Kingdom is a classic story for children that contains profound lessons for them. It has a glossary of words with their meanings, and also contains very colourful pictures to drive home the succinct points raised in the story.
More grease to the author Samiha Sulleyman’s elbows.
NB: The Writer is the Executive Secretary of Success Book Club and a Book Salesman.