Unfettering fetters through innocent interventions

A review of Jude Idada’s Didi Kanu and the Singing Dwarfs of the North by ADENIYI TAIWO KUNNU


DIDI Kanu and the Singing Dwarfs of the North is the latest book of the Canadian-born Nigerian, Jude Idada, who writes across genres; having won a number of awards within the creative industry, both home and abroad. He thrusts his latest work, not just on the laps of those who read, but on the shelves of those who must realize that reading children’s literature, particularly this new piece from him, would better their understanding of the world where children love to be and how they would appreciate their navigation to be achieved.

In 250 pages and 16 chapters, Idada embarks on a chronological story, infusing the needed fictive techniques and spattering splashes of spicy details to whet every reader’s appetite. It is not wrong to say rightly, that children are the primary beneficiaries from this delicious read, but if J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series could have so much patronage, even from adults with penchant for magical fantasies, then this work is shoulders’ equal because its content are effortlessly relatable, characteristically fun and guarantees the ultimate satisfaction derived from a well-cooked meal.

The Village of Not Too Happy Beginnings opens the reader up to the background of Didi Kanu, where she is presented as having four siblings besides her parents. Notably, the poverty that rocks their home does not prevent the parents from the love their children enjoy. Kene – their eldest child and son got educated, so as to support the family when he rounds off. This paid off when he taught Didi Kanu literacy and by the age of six, she could read and write.

Ede, the elderly man known in Didi’s home town of Obosi helps to birth her dreams when he tells stories about the singing dwarfs of the North. Dreams from stories one could say and Didi sure dreamt, but hers went a step ahead, as her waking days and sleeping nights got her acquainted with fantastical realities as presented in the work. The City of Strange Smells and Crowded Streets marks another turn in Didi’s life; change enveloped her from Obosi to Lagos where she felt the brief bitter pill of dislike spill on her tongue.

The Big Aunty Who Does Not Like Small Children shows how cruelty towards children could damage a child, however Uncle Ikenna and his wife – Aunty Nonye are Didi’s best gifts, but Aunty Nonye’s step-mother known as Big Aunty almost destroyed the little heroine, but she failed. One could draw lessons of physical limitations of a child and the need for immeasurable love and protection for the same little one time and again.

To Sing or Not To Sing is the fourth chapter that leads to revealing the purpose of Didi’s personality and journey to Lagos. Always resorting to the songs taught her by Ede and the companionship of Kaliko – the dwarf she sees each time her eyes are closed, the heroine leads the pack in this voyage of intrigues; from the familiar to the strange and further into the better-imagined unbelievable. The fifth chapter corroborates the sixth because When Love is Shared and Pain is Spared, then one will have The Sacrifice that Must be Made. From sending Big Aunty away from their home because of her cruelty, to the accident that sends Uncle Ikenna intoa coma; the sudden swings of fate as well as the manipulation of fortune could not be better crafted. How many times one finds strength in the companionship of un-equals may be asked, but the answer is quickly supplied in the close-knit support that Aunty Nonye gets from little Didi-Kanu. A problem shared may be half-solved, but when the one with whom it is shared is also a witness, then the feelings become cyclical.

The near-death situation results in Didi’s unplanned return to the village and as one chosen to explore the depths of the unseen, strengthening the sweetness of seeming realistic fantasies, she is made to ride on the horseback of time, spiraling into the world where there is the unseen eye at the middle of creation. Life has hurdles and Didi encounters hers, because her introduction into another realm in a bid to learn a song needed for the resuscitation of her dear uncle, she faces every kind of test a seeker encounters. The instructive un-raveling in Didi’s cosmic sojourn is her repeated references to what she had seen as well as have been rightly taught by her parents, sibling and her hosts in Lagos.

It is this juncture that connotes the realistic experiences of children, demonstrating what has been imbibed overtime when they are alone. From The Keeper’s Searchers Gates to The Oarsmen of The Bottomless Lake; The forever Arguing Fairies of The Perfumed Gardens and The Mountains of The North, she keeps her sanity, expressing her fears and Sticking to the Truth.

She seeks to learn the song that awakens from the Never-Ending Sleep, but the book has only to be read to appreciate the maze of life’s packages for this eight year old. Jude Idada has simply, yet dexterously given to literary enthusiasts and book lovers the world where children live, combining the reality of their fantasies in a situation where innocence can never be corrupted by the near-truths of adulterated adulthood.   The pages will unfold in bright colourations, your heart will melt in addictive empathy, the discovery of your childhood will be perfectly entrenched and ultimately, you will be delivered by creative effervescence of this real writer of a fictive piece, in which there is a fictive female character who makes all things real.


 Kunnu is with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, Lagos