Kai – The Lost Statue (1997)
Book Three in Kai’s series of The Girlhood Journeys Collection
Written by Leona Nicholas Welch; Illustrated by Elaine Arnold

 Kai is a young girl living in 1440 Africa. Originally from Ife in the north, she moves away from her family to Oyo to perfect her sculpting as an apprentice under Akibu. She is anxiously anticipating the arrival of her family for a visit, sculpting her father’s face as a gift to give to him when he comes. When her precious sculpture disappears, she is absolutely distraught! She needs to find it before her father arrives so as not to disappoint him. Is it possible that someone may have stolen what is, to Kai, such a valuable object? Will she find ever find her sculpture? Come with Kai on a journey through Africa as she learns important life lessons about friendship, loyalty, and family.

Sequence of Events

Welch opens the story in Kai’s sculpting class. Kai is an apprentice under Akibu, as women in Kai’s hometown are not allowed to sculpt. Everyone in Kai’s class realizes that she is better at her craft than they are. She sculpts every intricate detail of her father’s face as a present for him when he comes to visit. Kai’s young friend is not so skilled as Kai – in fact, she often is advised to do something other than sculpting. Her friend wants nothing more than to please her own father, so she takes Kai’s sculpture when no one is around. Kai, then, has to do one of two things: Find out where her sculpture is, or create a new one. There is not enough time to sculpt something brand new, so she decides to find out who took it and get it back from them. When she realizes that her best friend is the culprit, Kai is forced to either embarrass her friend in front of her family, or help her save face. Like a good girl, Kai uses good conflict resolution skills, and helps her friend become a better sculptor.

My opinion

I liked Kai a lot – perhaps because I have a vested interest in African children, as the Lord has given me a vision for them. I appreciated her struggles, and the ultimate redemption in the end – both for Kai, and Kai’s friend. Kai learns a difficult lesson in the story of the lost statue; a lesson that many children have a difficult time learning today. Even I have a hard time utilizing good conflict resolution skills. Students could definitely learn from Kai’s experiences.

Application

I could definitely use this in a fourth or fifth grade classroom during a celebration of Black History Month. I could also use this when learning about Africa as one of the seven continents of the world. Girls would probably like this more than boys, although the antagonist in the story is a boy; thus, there is a possibility that it would appeal to either gender. There are some great historical elements in the story, and the background for the historical fiction is given in the back of the book. - KD