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Kids’ Books: ‘No Laughter Here’

May 01, 2004 1 min read
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Many parents and teachers may consider the subject matter inappropriate for children, but Williams-Garcia’s sensitive tale about two 5th graders’ experience with female genital mutilation addresses this important topic while gracefully weaving in themes of friendship, resolve, identity, and emotional healing. During the summer, African-born Victoria leaves Brooklyn for a coming-of-age ceremony in Nigeria. Her best friend, Akilah, is excited for Victoria but anxious for her return. The Victoria who comes home, however, is not the outspoken, studious, and laughing girl who left a few months earlier. She is quiet, careless with her homework, and never smiles. After watching a sex ed video in class, Victoria confides in Akilah: “I don’t look like that....I don’t have what girls have.” Horrified, Akilah promises to keep the secret while helping her friend speak out against the brutal custom. Williams-Garcia avoids unnecessarily gruesome descriptions, focusing instead on the senselessness of violence with a tenderness reminiscent of Judy Blume’s books.

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