Néala & the Path of the Light
Néala & The Path of the Light is a fantastic book for children. Originally published in Dutch as Néala & weg van het lichtand, it was translated into a bilingual Amharic and English edition in 2021. The text showcases author Krista Haest’s poetic way with words and her love of rural Ethiopia. Drawings by Dagie Massoel effectively reflect the pastoral and idyllic countryside Haest champions.
The story begins with Néala, a 7-year-old girl, getting ready to go with her brother Tamrat to tend sheep, oxen, and cows for the first time. We learn a bit about Néala’s mother and the way she raises her children. Mother prepares enjera in a basket and teaches Néala how to carry the basket on her back. Intimate and detailed conversations occur between mother and daughter about how Néala should wear her traditional cloth, Netela (scarf), and what it symbolizes. Néala loves the way mama “smells of milk” and how “warm and soft” she feels when she kisses Néala. The story continues to walk us through young Néala’s daily experiences: guiding the animals through the “high green mountain ridges, discovering gemstones in ”just ploughed land,” listening to the “voice of the river,” using the sun as a watch, and flying into mother’s arms as “a thousand stars wink” at her. The book also touches on friendship. Néala and her friend Dula both love and appreciate the beauty of nature in their community. The real world fades when Néala’s vivid imagination creates magical experiences. A bird lifts her into the sky and sparkling water from a spring makes her insides simmer.
Overall, the story represents the unique tradition of the setting. There are some spelling mistakes and some necessary words are missing. This, I’m assuming, probably happened during translation. The book will be enjoyed by children, ages 4 to 8 years old. Other age groups can gain exposure to the culture and traditions present in Ethiopia. The book will be a good addition to a classroom library.
Reviewed by Tafessework Gebeyehu, Amharic Professor, Howard University
Published in Africa Access Review (August 20, 2021)
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