Book Title: Taonere’s Dream: The True Story of a Malawian Paralympian

Author: Lindsay Katchika-Jere

Illustrator: Kate Mkandawire

Reviewed by: Makewana’s Daughters

Publication Date: November 2022

Taonere’s Dream tells the story of a fifteen-year-old girl from Nkhotakota who is visually impaired. The girl, Taonere, loves running, and dreams of taking part in sports. There are, however, many voices in her society which tell her that there is no way in which she can ever take part in sports. This does not stop Taonere, and she keeps on running and dreaming. A day comes when her life is changed, but we are not going to spoil the ending for you!

Katchika-Jere’s story is based on the true story of Taonere Banda, who has been described by BBC as Malawi’s “first and only Paralympian.” Taonere’s dream is in the genre of children’s biography, and this makes it a first on the Malawian literary scene. Katchika-Jere and illustrator Kate Mkandawire are currently focusing on bringing awareness to Malawi’s female leaders in  various sectors through children’s stories. Taonere’s Dream thus focuses on a field that is often forgotten in children’s stories; that of inclusiveness in disability.

The 23-page story is told using simple text and colourful images. The beginning echoes a format that is well-known in oral literature; the immediate introduction to a particular space: “In a village called Mtanje in Nkhotakota lived a girl called Taonere Banda.” This is accompanied by a smiling illustration of the main character. The accompaniment of text and image is consistent throughout the book, and the reader is thus able to share Taonere’s joy when things are working out, and her disappointment when people discourage her. The last page uses a real photograph to remind us that this is indeed a true story.

Dialogue is also a very important part of the text, with Taonere talking about her dreams, and people talking about her.

As a story, Taonere’s Dream does not forget its audience, and engages directly engages with them at the end of the story with a thought-provoking question.

Speaking of audience: Taonere’s Dream is mainly for children aged six to twelve, but I found that anyone who has ever had a dream or an ambition can read it too. Behind what may seem to be a simple story  there is a challenge about society’s values, and about some of the ways in which children deal with some of the problems that they face.

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