Thursday, July 18, 2024

Colours for the Bright Young Ones


By Ona Akinde 

  • Title: Dreamrun: Poems for Bright Young People
  • Author: Tade Ipadeola
  • Publisher: Metamorphic Books and Consulting Services
  • Number of pages: 14
  • Year of publication: 2017
  • Category: Children

One of the easiest ways to pass on knowledge, particularly to young minds, is through poems. Poetry is the perfect blend of rhyme and rhythm, words that send a message in the briefest of ways. Poems appeal to all senses, particularly the senses of bright young people. In this collection of 14 poems titled Dreamrun: Poems for Bright Young People, Tade Ipadeola takes the reader on a journey of history, love, friendship and nature. In funny and engaging language, the collection provides entertaining and unique poetry for young readers. The young readers are also provided with indigenous content, relatable poems, and situations that they can easily find themselves in. In addition, the collection offers young readers an alternative to the popular poems they are used to, a break from ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ and other such nursery rhymes.

The pages of this collection are filled with a lot of colour. Each poem has an accompanying illustration. Footnotes are provided at the bottom of pages with poems that may not be easily understood – a great addition to provide clarity for young readers. The collection covers a diverse range of issues, from food to geography, dreams, and the list goes on.

Dreamrun begins with ‘Africa’, a poem describing Africa as a land full of rivers and love. It is short and sweet, but the illustration depicts Africa with huts and an absence of civilisation. Young readers are impressionable, easy to convince and eager to learn. The visuals of this poem reinforce stereotypes about Africa, stereotypes that efforts are constantly being made to end. Feeding these same stereotypes to young readers makes the cycle unending.

‘Gather’ reminds readers of the warmth in friendship and togetherness, the joy in company and in being kind to one another. It says:

[L]et us spell our names
with kindness in the afternoon recess,
sing our oldest songs together.

It encourages young readers to spend time with other people, to get to know them and share experiences with them.

For readers with an active imagination who constantly have dreams in their heads, ‘Sometimes I Dream in Colour’ acknowledges these dreams, prompting them to think about their dreams and what they mean. It highlights how diverse dreams can be:

Sometimes I dream in colour
And sometimes I dream in black and [white]
Sometimes I have a song,
other times my dream is a silent movie.

Despite the form, each dream is a valid experience.

‘I Want You to Know’ comes in handy for young readers experiencing a move or a change in environment. It acknowledges that a move might be good. The new environment could bring more joy, but it is fine to miss the old environment and the people there.

My new school is great and good,
the new teachers are firm and kind,
the school playground is wide and happy
but I still missed my old friends

‘I Want You to Know’ also encourages young readers to be vocal about their feelings and emotions, to think about how new experiences make them feel and then express those feelings. The persona in the poem says repeatedly, ‘I missed you all’, and to his friends, ‘I want you to know that I missed you most of all’.

The poems titled ‘Carl Lewis’ and ‘Jesse Owens’ expose readers to notable individuals in the history of sports and their achievements. A common characteristic of both athletes is their ability to break through limitations and perform exceedingly well. They are great examples for young minds to look up to, and to serve as reminders of how much can be achieved regardless of circumstances. However, the presence of not just one but two foreign individuals as examples for young readers to learn about and perhaps look up to would make one ask: are there no Nigerian or African individuals who can serve this same purpose? Are there no Nigerians and Africans whose works and achievements are noteworthy? Does this absence not place in the minds of these young readers the idea that being Nigerian or African is not enough? That these characters belong to the same industry, sports, is also limiting. Young readers need to know that the areas in which they can excel are diverse.

‘Sailing’ and ‘A Big Bird Is the Aeroplane’ address, wittily, two means of transportation. These poems open the readers’ minds to how things work, how transportation is possible and what makes these means of transportation unique. In ‘Sailing’, the reader learns how useful water is and the power it possesses:

Water is a wonder under a boat
I now know how big things can float

‘A Big Bird Is the Aeroplane’ is particularly descriptive in visuals as well as sounds:

You can see it perch so large on the
tarmac and see how wide its wing can
stretch and how loud its voice can roar
and feel how whoosh its life can be when
you sit inside.

It is a poem that feels like an experience; a poem you live through.

A brief yet detailed lesson is contained in ‘Honey’. Not only are the readers able to visualise fields of flowers and trees, of nature and the beautiful elements, they also learn about how honey is made. The poem beautifully establishes a link among all these elements of nature and how they work together to produce honey:

They go from flower to flower, they work from
bud to bud. Their work is in the sun.
This is the way honey is made,
this is the way bees make them.

In just a few lines, Ipadeola takes young readers through a process that happens around them constantly, and by the end of the poem they have learnt a new and valuable lesson.

‘The Cat Lupita’ and ‘Jupiter the Dog’ are animal-based poems that give room for readers to use their imagination. ‘The Cat Lupita’ portrays cats as pets as well as protectors:

You want a cat like this
Smart and strong keeping the mice away.

Readers will learn that cats are not just friends to humans but also foes to mice. As much as cats should be gentle and be pets, they should also be fierce and strong enough to keep mice away. ‘Jupiter the Dog’, on the other hand, stimulates the imagination of the reader. The poem leaves what Jupiter looks like to the imagination, what his story is, how he came to be. It invites the reader to conjure this dog in their head and bring it to life. Both Lupita and Jupiter are wearing shoes in the illustrations that come with the poems, a questionable feature to give these animals.

‘To Our Friends in India’ is a lesson in geography. It encourages the reader to learn about the world and its countries and continents:

Let’s meet today in different maps
after class when we’re free to play.
We are learning about great India
we’ll read the books and then we’ll find
the country on the map.

It also shows how knowledge can bridge the gaps that exists among the diverse people of the world. By exploring maps and reading about countries and their people, children will have a better understanding of the people of the world such that distance is no longer a barrier.

In ‘To Be Strong, We’ll Eat Coconuts’, not only will readers learn names of fruits, old and new, they will be reminded that these fruits will make them strong, and that fruits play a vital role in their growth and development.

The collection ends with the title poem ‘Dreamrun’, a succinct poem that is heavy with meaning:

Tomorrow is a book I want to read
so I’m running to the shelf today.

The poem prompts the reader to think of how the actions of today can affect tomorrow. It obligates young readers to bear in mind the future when doing things in the present-day. It reminds them that if there is something they want to achieve tomorrow, today is the best time to begin taking steps towards it.

Collections like Dreamrun remind us of the need for literature that is inclusive and relatable, particularly for young readers. To be able to flip pages and see images that look like one and one’s environment is heart-warming and encouraging. Save for the quality of illustrations and a few typographical errors, as seen in the footnote on p 2, ‘Gather is a poem that has that emphasizes’, and in the ‘About the Author’ section, ‘There are very fem poets in Africa that can match the poetic prowess of Tade Ipadeola’, Dreamrun is a refreshing read that provides great insight for young readers.

Photograph: ‘Hope for Our Future’ by David Robert Bilwas 

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Ona Akinde
Ona Akinde
Ona Akinde is a Lagos-based writer and editor with a love for words and the powers they possess. She was a Wawa Book Review Young Literary Critics Fellow.

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