One Chance Dance by Efua Traoré

One Chance Dance by Efua Traoré – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Desperation, Destiny, Dance, Friendship, Family.
Children’s book title: One Chance Dance.
Children’s author: Efua Traoré.
Genre: Feel Good Middle Grade Fiction.
Published by: Chicken House.
ISBN: 9781915026507.
Recommended for children aged: 9-11 year-olds.
First published: Paperback July 2023.
This children’s book is ideal for: Encouraging discussions about differing lifestyles, environmental issues, the varied meanings of family, and the effect a regular income can have.

One Chance Dance by Efua Traoré

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Our review:

Jomi fixes things, he knows everything has a purpose, even after it’s been discarded on the scrap hill next to his aunt’s house where he’s been living for three years. When he was nine Jomi watched his mother board the bus from their village to Lagos never thinking it would be the last time he saw her.

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Now twelve, everything changes again when bulldozers arrive unexpectedly and the villagers gather helplessly to watch their path of destruction. Horrified, Jomi runs but finds a terrified displaced bushbaby who he takes back to his empty house. Taking the chance to look for some of his possessions, taken from him by his unforgiving aunt, he discovers secrets kept from him for years and, in despair, stows away aboard a truck to the city.

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Lagos is a scary, busy, noisy place, and Jomi has no idea which way to turn. Finding companionship with a group of street kids gives him a place to stay and together they hatch a plan to let his mum know where he is and make everything right again but it was never going to be that simple was it?

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Our verdict:

This is a wonderful book and Jomi is a sympathetically written main protagonist who is easy to cheer for as he and his bushbaby face life head-on. The group of children he meets up with understand him and he understands them, and together they fill the book with optimism and simplicity of wants and needs which make their situation even more poignant. Their loyalty to each other shines through even when things don’t go according to plan!

There is an underlying thread of inequality, poverty and despair throughout but even though the children know they are a part of society’s have-nots it doesn’t dampen their spirit when things get tough. The solutions, seen through both their eyes and those of the adults around them, are beautifully written and carry the reader along on their tide of positivity as you will them to succeed in their endeavours.

There is much to discuss in this book, from the diverse culture that will be new to many in the suggested middle-grade age range, to the acceptance of the disparity between the advantaged and disadvantaged people in Lagos which is shockingly but sympathetically explained. There are also plenty of loose ends to talk about which don’t lessen the effect of the ending and will likely have many differing resolutions suggested by readers.

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Teaching notes

  • It would be interesting to investigate the different meals, dance styles, and cultural references mentioned in One Chance Dance.
  • The themes of friendship and adversity, which can be strong no matter where you live – including what you have, or don’t have, and how prevalent the throwaway society is – are clearly illustrated throughout and would also make for interesting discussion points.

Many thanks to Chicken House for the review copy.

If you like One Chance Dance by Efua Traoré you might also like: our reviews of Our Beautiful Game by Lou Kuenzler, Kofi and the Rap Battle Summer by Jeffrey Boakye, The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei by Christina Matula, Last Girl In by Cheryl Diane Parkinson, The Week at World’s End by Emma Carroll, Thunderbolt by Wilbur Smith with Chris Wakling,

One Chance Dance by Efua Traoré is featured in our adventure stories for children and teens list.

About Tracy Wood

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I am a voracious reader and used to be a learning support assistant in a senior school for eight years before leaving to home school my now adult daughter. I have ten grandchildren who I love reading to and spending time with. Reviews by Tracy Wood