Mambo goes to school — literally

gladys-kenfack-authorAs an author, it’s always a true honor to bring the stories alive to children. I have been very privileged this fall as I booked a dozen author visits at various schools in the Seattle area.

As I began this journey of bringing Mambo live to the classrooms and libraries, little did I know how curious the children would be: Curious about Mambo the character, but mostly curious about my hat.

I love African fashion. For storytelling and reading occasions, I wear my Cameroonian Kaba Ngodo dress (pictured here) and my Nigerian Gele (look at my head) as my official attire.

Here are some key take aways from my first 10 public readings of Mambo Goes to School:

  1. The kids really enjoyed meeting an author—for most Kindergarteners and first graders, meeting an author in person is a dream come true.
  2. Kid: Can I wear that hat too?
    Me: Hm…How about you touch it?
    Imagine the scene: After reading to the kids and answering their questions—I stood by the exit door to allow them to touch as if they were petting my hat—classic and priceless
  3. “Are you Mambo’s mom?” Some of the kids noticed that my hat was similar to Mambo’s mom’s in the book—so they were curious to know if Mambo was a real character.
  4. How far is Africa from Seattle? At almost every visit, I have to use a world map as a reference to show kids that Africa is a very big continent and that Cameroon, where Mambo and I are from, is on the west coast right above the equator. About 10,000 miles away.
  5. Are you writing more of Mambo’s adventures? Of course, Mambo is such a curious and adventurous character. One of his adventures is available on the iPad (A Joyful Naming Ceremony). I am currently working on a story of Mambo attending a village reunion along with Mambo going to the market with his mother. Very fascinating stories, and I look forward to sharing them with you soon.
  6. Can we sing the song again? Ahaaa….We had to repeat the song for couple of groups. The children enjoyed the song about the body parts and learning left and right. The song is now available on YouTube to help educators, librarians, and teachers bring the tune to the classroom. It really makes storytelling truly engaging and interactive.
  7. How did you pick the name Mambo? Mambo is the local chocolate brand in Cameroon. Growing up as a kid, it was almost like an icon and still is. Also, Cameroon is the 5th largest producer of Cocoa in the world. With Mambo’s skin being chocolate-milk-like, Mambo was the perfect name for him.  You could see their eyes light up—CHOCOLATE! Some kids even asked if I could bring some actual Mambo chocolates to their class next time. Stay tuned for a full blog post on Mambo and the chocolate connection.

I have already learned so much from the kids, and their curiosity, along with their body language when listening to the story, has really given me insight into what topics captivate them most as well as what other elements complement the book (the song, my hat, my dress and the map). It’s great to see these kids become Global Citizens—one story at a time. Mambo is eager to meet them, too—at a library or at their school. Feel free to contact me to book a visit.