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A Story About Afiya

James Berry, illus. Anna Cunha
Lantana Publishing
Age 5-7

In this beautiful re-imagining of the poem by celebrated poet, James Berry, Afiya’s childhood world is magically created and captured in the ever-changing patterns on her white cotton dress. From sunflowers to butterflies, pigeons to tigers, waves to boulders, the dress is printed with images. Yet, next morning, it is fresh, like a blank sheet of paper, and ready for the new day’s adventures.


Share the story

Before you start reading the book, talk about the cover (back and front) and the title – what does your child think the story will be about? Open the cover and spend time talking about the endpaper spread at the beginning of the book. What does your child notice about the place Afiya lives?

Read aloud
Read the book aloud to your child, pausing to talk about what is happening in the story or the pictures.

Join in or read together
After reading the story several times, your child may be confident to join in with the reading or have a go at reading independently.

Talk about the book

  • Talk about all the different things Afiya sees from day to day.

  • What do they see in their lives each day? Are any of these the same as for Afiya?

  • Talk about any parts of the story which might be puzzling.

Share favourites
The story is beautifully written and illustrated – you can share favourite lines and favourite illustrations and talk about them.

Things to make and do
Make patterns on paper clothes

  • Using an A3 sheet of white paper, fold the sheet in half lengthways, then fold in half like a card and half again to make a concertina or zig zag shape.

  • Make a dress or T-shirt shape by cutting out the sides, leaving the top of the T, or t-shirt arms, joined together to make a chain. Open up and children can decorate each dress or T-shirt with patterns from Afiya’s world.

  • Then turn over and they can decorate the other side with patterns of the things they see each day in their own world.

  • This video demonstration might help

Make prints
Children can cut out paper shapes of different items of clothing to decorate and peg on a line with paper clips. Before hanging on the line, they can print the paper by using thick slices of potato, creating a pattern on the white side and painting it before printing. They can make a clothes-line using string fixed with blutac across a corner of their bedroom.

See here for some help.

Create a landscape
Using sugar paper, children can make a picture of their own world with chalks, pastels or soft crayons. This would help them to create interesting textures like the illustrations in the book.

Make stick puppets 
Using the illustrations as a guide, make a stick puppet of Afiya in a favourite scene from the book.

Be a storyteller
Children can use the pictures in the book to remember the sequence of events and use their stick puppets to tell Afiya’s story in their own words.

Find out more
Learn some Swahili
Afiya is a Swahili word meaning health. Find and make a list of other Swahili words and their meanings.
Read them aloud in a tuneful way to capture the musicality of the Swahili language. See here.

Hear the Swahili language watching these animations here and here

Find out more about the poet, James Berry
 and hear more of his poems

This book will be published in October 2020 but can be ordered from Lantana Books