A Message of Hope

Review of "Light a Candle"

Narrated in Swahili and English, this vividly illustrated children’s picture book set in Tanzania relates the story of Ngama, a boy too old to be considered a child and too young to be deemed a man.

One day a car arrives in Ngama’s village – a rare occurrence – and he wonders who the visitor is. His father, the chief of their clan, tells him that the country’s leader visited the village to ask the clansmen to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, and light a candle at the summit to mark Tanzania’s independence.

Ngama insists on joining the men, but his father forbids it. Though Ngama doesn’t argue, he follows his own plan. In the morning, Ngama’s father leads the men up the mountain. Ngama follows stealthily behind. Some men notice Ngama and are convinced he’ll soon go home. After all, the climb is steep, it’s becoming difficult to breath, and it’s cold and uncomfortable sleeping on the ground.

When Ngama’s father becomes aware of his son’s disobedience, he feels both anger at Ngama and pride in his fortitude, a promising quality for a future chief – for that is what Ngama will become.

Ngama persists on the journey and reaches the summit with the others. Each man takes wood out of his pack for the fire. When all is ready, Ngama receives a surprising honour. His father hands him a lit torch to ignite the pile of wood, and says, “This is for you. This fire is for the future of our country. And the future belongs to the children.”

In Light a Candle, author Godfrey Nkangolo has realized his passion to “show the world that although the widely known story of Africa is one of despair, Africa also has a message of hope.”

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