How do you get American students to even begin to grasp life in a third world country? With Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani and Viviana Mazza, students will be able to engage and connect to the world beyond their own lives.
One of the greatest gifts that literature provides is the ability to see lives beyond our own. Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree introduces readers to an unnamed female protagonist and her life in an African village.
While all she wants is to succeed in school and make her family happy, Boko Haram and his men are moving toward her village.
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What Drew Me To Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree
A year or two ago, my Instagram feed was full of images of Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree.
Like I do with all yummy book recommendations, I had added it to my Amazon wishlist. There, it languished for years.
Recently, however, a colleague reached out to me requesting historical fiction recommendations for her social studies classroom library. I sat down to draft a list…. Only to find that I was stumped!
There was a distinct lack of historical fiction in my own classroom library. I realized that I had to remedy this gap in my library curation.
So Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree finally made it off of my wish list and into my cart. And let me tell you–it was worth all of the hype!
What Makes To Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree “Lit”?
Part of this novel’s greatness is the protagonist.
She remains unnamed throughout the whole story. This is a powerful writing move. Because so many young girls in Nigeria could tell this story, she embodies not just one, but all of their histories.
Like many young girls, she lives in a village in rural Nigeria. Education is guaranteed to no one. Often, students must leave school early to work and contribute to their families.
Our protagonist wants to finish and attend college in the city more than anything. Thus, she works hard, hoping to earn a college scholarship.
Meanwhile, we meet her family and other village residents. I absolutely loved hearing about Nigeria’s culture and traditions through this story!
While we learn about the struggles and the difficulties–especially for young women–we also see a lot of love and religious inclusivity. This includes meeting an Islamic family who later acts as a positive foil to militant, Muslim radicals.
Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree Connects Student to Global Events
Another “lit” aspect of the novel is that it’s based on real-life events. The authors compiled this story from interviews with Nigerian girls abducted by Boko Haram.
The protagonist does not shy away from talking about her fear, the murders she witnesses, or the rape she experiences. There are, however, no gratuitously graphic scenes.
It’s a “safe” way to begin conversations that can often be uncomfortable or triggering, but that nevertheless are important to have.
The recency and relevance of Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree is something that I think will really resonate with your students.
Young adults are passionate about fairness and justice. Expect some outrage when they found out this story is based on recent events.
This novel would be an excellent supplement to a social studies class or as an anchor text in a world literature course looking to teach some YA.
This would also be a great addition to any literature circle, especially one involving social justice issues or global connections.
I think it also has the added bonus of being so pro-education! Your students will be forced to recognize what a gift their education is!
Who’s the Ideal Reader for Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree?
This book will be highly accessible to many readers!
The issues and themes presented will engage your deep-thinkers. They’ll be able to make connections between domestic and international issues, cultures, and religions.
The Lexile level is around freshman year (ish). However, the sections are broken up in such a way that the book reads more easily than the Lexile level suggests.
I think the inclusion of African words bumps the Lexile score higher than it should be. Throughout the text, the sentence structure is very simplistic.
Even students below grade level will be able to follow along.
Major themes of the book are ideas to which every student can relate: education, family, and friendship.
Even students who can’t place Nigeria on a map or who haven’t heard of Boko Haram will have a point of entry into Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree.
Even the boys in class would be able to enjoy this novel. (Although the main character does discuss how her period makes attending school difficult, so be prepared!)
Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree would be a remarkable World Literature whole-class read or novel option. Because it’s so accessible, relevant, and deals with serious issues so delicately, I would teach it with global literature in a heartbeat.
I would love to see this book being taught as an anchor text (and if you do this, I’d love to hear from you!).
It is, of course, an excellent addition to any classroom library as well.
To Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree: THE FACTS
Author: Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani and Viviana Mazza
Genre: Realistic fiction, historical fiction
Setting: Nigerian village
Main Character: Unnamed girl living in a Nigerian village who is later abducted by Boko Haram’s men
Page Numbers: 330 (this is deceiving–half of the pages are only partially used!)
- For another jungle adventure, try Children of Blood and Bone
- For other books about real-world issues, try The Hate U Give, Internment, or Dear Martin
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