Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree: A Librarian’s Perspective

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I remember the Nigerian girls’ kidnapping in 2014, but I’ve hardly heard anything about it since then. It turns out, while many girls have been found, 112 kidnapped girls are still missing as of January 2020.

If I, as a 44-year old adult, do not know more information about these girls’ fates, how would teens know anything about it? I was an adult when this happened a few years ago. A 15-year old reader of Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree would have been only 9- or 10-years old when the girls were kidnapped. Even if they heard about it on the news then, they are not likely to remember it now unless they have relatives or friends involved.

AUTHOR: Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani and Viviana Mazza
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Katherine Tegan Books
PUBLICATION DATE: September 4, 2018
PAGES: 336
GENRE: realistic fiction
SETTING: Nigeria, early-mid 2000s
GIVE IT TO: upper-MS, HS

SUMMARY

In 2014, Boko Haram insurgents kidnapped 276 Nigerian school girls. This is the story of one unnamed Nigerian girl whose father and brothers are slaughtered in the middle of the night. Boko Haram kidnaps her and many other girls and take them deep into Nigeria’s Sambisa Forest. There, the girls are enslaved, raped, indoctrinated, and forced to marry Boko Haram fighters. Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree is based on journalist interviews with surviving girls. The unnamed narrator and her fellow girls could be any one of them.

WHAT I LIKED

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree helps bring the Nigerian girls’ stories to life for today’s teens. The girls were teens themselves when they were kidnapped. They were about the same age as the target audience for this book. Can you imagine if a militant terrorist group kidnapped 276 teen girls from school in the US or Australia or Canada or the UK? The news would not have stopped. I wouldn’t need this book to remind me of the story or to know that lots of girls are still missing.

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree is an engaging story that’s easy to get into and difficult to put down. The chapters are short, with some only a few sentences in length and none longer than two pages. The narrator’s story could be that of any girl, which is why it’s a great choice to keep her pre-Boko Haram identity unnamed.

An Afterword gives more information about Boko Haram, the kidnapped girls, and Nigerian and world responses to the events.

Heartbreaking, terrifying, and all-too-real.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

I liked the whole book and read all of it in two sittings. There was nothing I did not like.

DIVERSITY

All major characters are Nigerian. Boko Haram insurgents are African and Middle Eastern. Relief workers and humanitarian aid workers are largely white but represent many countries and ethnicities.

ARTWORK/ILLUSTRATIONS

Cover artwork shows the silhouette of a Baobab tree, a recurring symbol of life and death in the story. The cover’s deep green is similar to the green in the Nigerian flag. Interestingly, the Islamic state flag is black. I wonder if the choice of deep green and black on the cover was intentional to reflect the flags?

The book’s text contains no artwork.

LIBRARIANS WILL WANT TO KNOW

Themes: religious extremism, Islam, Boko Haram, Nigeria, Africa, slavery, kidnapping, rape, forced marriage, terrorism, based on a true story

Would adults like this book? 100% yes

Would I buy this for my high school library? yes, no reservations

Would I buy this for my middle school library? yes, with reservations–it’s probably best for 8th grade and up.

TRIGGER WARNINGS

Language: none

Sexuality: none

Violence: high; rape (not detailed); murder; forced marriage; kidnapping; gun violence; terrorism; a teen girl is shot for singing “Jesus Loves Me”

Drugs/Alcohol: none

Other: pregnancy as the result of rape

BOOKTALK OR DISPLAY THIS WITH:

 

Do you have Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree in your library? What are your thoughts about including it in a middle school collection?

 

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