Title: Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah
Author: Laurie Ann Thompson
Illustrator: Sean Qualls
Publisher: Schwarz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House
Word Count: 850 (estimate)
A few weeks ago I was at the local library for baby story time with my son. Afterward, I made my usual stop – perusing the racks in the children’s area – and one book caught my attention – Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. Having seen a movie based on his life, and being somewhat familiar with his story, I definitely wanted to see how it played out in children’s book form.
Clearly, as the title of the book indicates, this is a character-driven book. But instead of focusing on character, I’d like to focus on theme. Because while this is Emmanuel’s story, the reader can’t help but come away with the message that anything is possible for someone who refuses to be ruled by their limitations. Anything is possible for someone with “a sharp mind, a bold heart, and one strong leg.”
This theme of the indomitable spirit and the ability to overcome adversity plays out not only in Emmanuel’s life, but also in his mother’s. Here’s a quote as an example:
“Most people thought he (Emmanuel) would be useless, or worse – a curse.
His father left, never to return.
But his mother had faith.”
We learn early on that in Ghana, most children with disabilities couldn’t go to school. However, Emmanuel’s mother, Mama Comfort, carried him there until he got too heavy.
“From them on, Emmanuel hopped to school and back, two miles each way, on one leg, by himself.”
(How’s that for inspiration? And also a great anecdote if your child is whining about walking to the bus stop!)
Emmanuel faces many challenges, such as making friends at school, but he uses his resourcefulness and his creativity to overcome these obstacles – even earning enough money to buy a brand-new soccer ball so that other children will play with him. Later he learns to ride a bike.
“Over and over again, Emmanuel fell – hard – but finally. . . he rode.”
(I think we can all relate to this type of repeated failure at something we’ve attempted.)
The theme of this book can easily be summed up in Mama Comfort’s last words to her son on her death bed:
“Be respectful, take care of your family, don’t ever beg. And don’t give up.”
The book ends with this powerful last line the solidifies the theme:
“He proved that one leg is enough to do great things – and one person is enough to change the world.”
Emmanuel’s story leaves the reader amazed and awed at the obstacles one man overcame to achieve his dreams. However, it also leaves the reader asking, “What are the obstacles I must overcome? And what is the impact that I am meant to make on the world?” For this reason (and for all of the quotes outlined above), I feel that it is an excellent example of theme.
A few years ago I had the chance to visit Ghana. I spent time at two different schools/homes for children with physical and mental disabilities. I learned that these children are often cast off by their parents at birth. A prominent belief in Ghanaian culture is that if a child is born with a disability then the parents must have done something wrong to bring this curse upon themselves. Keeping a disabled child is often a source of deep shame.
The physical therapist at one of the schools shared with me how one the mother of one of her students had contemplated leaving her child to die in a river at the advice of a witch doctor. (Such advice is not at all uncommon in Ghana.) Thankfully, she found the school and now understands that having a child with a disability is not a curse, and in fact, can be a great blessing. Perhaps this personal experience is another reason I am particularly fond of this book.
For more about the 14:14 Blogging Challenge and more reviews of great books and story elements, click here!
Hello Lindsay…so happy to connect with you vis Christie’s PB 14:14 Challenge. I’m thrilled because it looks like there will be so many books that are new to me..this is one of them.
What a powerful story…I must get a copy and read it with my six-year old grandson. 🙂
I love your mission and your website…but I have one question…is there a way to make the type darker as I enter the comment…my vision is poor and I can barely see the light blue type against the light blue background…of course, that doesn’t stop me from writing a lot. 😉 🙂 But it is hard for me to read it over and make sure I haven’t made typos. 😉 If there isn’t, no worries.
Hi Vivian. . . Thanks for visiting my blog and for your kind words about my work/site. That’s a great question about the type color in the comments section. I’m not sure about that, but I know someone who may know, so I’m going to see if something can be done to fix it and make it easier for you and all of the others leavings comments!
Hi Lindsay, Emmanuel’s Dream is on my must read list. I am drawn to the theme as well.
And I agree with Vivian, this type is very hard to read.
Thanks Manju! Yes, I think you’ll really enjoy “Emmanuel’s Dream.” I’ll look into the type/color issue in the comment sections.
great to connect through PB 14:14 … loved this post, which related so well the powerful theme in Emmanuel’s story of hope, faith, confidence, and perseverance. Thanks for this wonderful review. Looking forward to other posts!
Thanks Damon! I’m glad to connect with you as well!
This is such an inspiring story. All children should be blessed with mothers like Emmanuel’s.
I couldn’t agree more Sydney!
Lindsay, what a wonderful book you chose. I love these types of books that make you think…what can I do? Thank you for sharing this with us.
I agree Joyce! I love books that challenge me to be a better human being! It’s amazing how much inspiration you can find in a children’s book!
HI Lindsay, thank you for this lovely review on an inspiring story. Overcoming our seeming limitations is all about attitude and the right support. A good theme for everyone.
Yes, Cecilia! Attitude and support are so important. I’m sure we can all think of someone who has helped us in our own path or inspired us by their attitude!
Holy cow! I’m so inspired just by your review. I can’t wait to read this book! Thanks, Lindsay.
I hope you love it as much as I did Laura! Emmanuel and his mother are certainly very inspiring!
I agree. That IS definitely a very powerful last line! Love it! I loved your review about theme. It is theme, sometimes, that makes a person want to read a book over and over again. People need hope and books like this one give people hope that they too can live out their own personal dreams. Made me think of the video I made on my website and why I love children’s books and working with children’s authors so much. Words heal. Words give hope. Thanks so much for sharing.
Thanks Christie! I couldn’t agree more — we all need hope! I doubt that most people think of finding hope in a children’s book — but the more I’ve been reading them, the more I find it there! Can’t wait to check out your video!
wow, this sounds like an inspiring story for all. Thank goodness he had such a loving mother.