Figgy, the intrepid and ingenuous young Ghanaian narrator of Figgy in the World, takes readers on a grand adventure. In Figgy’s little village, Grandma Ama has become ill, and the eight-year-old orphaned girl resolves to help, setting off with her goat for America, where she expects to find medicine to save Grandma Ama. This drama-filled and humour-touched tale weaves its way around Ghana, following Figgy into and out of a variety of mishaps involving the wide cast of distinctive characters she meets on her way.
The first-person narration is utterly childlike and convincing. A well-developed, character with her own genuine voice, Figgy is intrepid and tenacious, but also believable in her naïveté and innocence. Her wonderful relationship with her new friend Nana evolves in a realistic and moving way, and the two children shine through in this well-paced story that twists and turns its way to a most satisfying conclusion. Many cultural insights and sensory details of Ghanaian culture come alive in the telling. And while the hardship suffered in Ghana is clear, the values of friendship and love are at the heart of this delightful, memorable work of junior fiction.
Tamsin Janu came to write her debut children’s novel, Figgy, after spending three months working at a Ghanaian school and orphanage. Her firsthand experience has clearly infused her with an inspired understanding of a country where poverty and danger abound but where goodness and joy nevertheless course through the people. To be able to portray this world so vividly and engagingly is exemplary. To create so many distinctive well-realised characters--including even Kwame the goat –is also remarkable. But to accomplish both with the impeccable clarity of expression necessary for appreciation by a young audience is truly a literary feat.