The Amazing Adventures of Izi and Larry tells the story of two very good friends, eight-year-old Izi, and magical, flying dinosaur, Larry - who lives in a zoo. Together, they go on wonderful adventures where Larry and Izi learn about different African tribes and cultures; they see the world as a kaleidoscope of many customs and practises held together by tolerance, kindness and understanding.
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As I watched the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony, not only was I mesmerised by the entertainment unfolding on the screen in front of me, but I was quite frankly flabbergasted by the magnitude of planning and execution such a magnificent spectacle must have taken. In short, I was profoundly proud to be British. Proud to be a citizen of a nation capable of producing such an extravaganza. And I certainly wasn't alone. That 'pride of nation' was etched on the face of every British person in that stadium.
However, deep down I couldn't help but wonder why such 'pride of nation' is so non-existent in Africa. Yes, in those moments I was most definitively proud to be British. But I was also a little envious that such pride (of 'nation' and not 'self') continues to evade my country of birth.
I'm sure you've asked yourself these questions before - "Why aren't I proud of my country? Why am I so quick to dismiss my continent?
Yes, we've made many mistakes, and in many cases continue to make the same ones over and over again. But is this enough reason for our nonchalant attitude towards our heritage?
After many months of asking myself why we Africans think so little of ourselves, I came to the conclusion that the main reason lies in our not only knowing so little about our heritage, but even less about our different cultures. Ask most Nigerian / African children to speak their native tongue, and they struggle. But most speak English. Yes, English is the world language; but the simple, and indeed bleak reality is, the more children are incapable of speaking their native tongue, the more diluted our nation becomes; rather as though our energy and power are being drained day by day.
Allow me to be perfectly frank with you for a few moments.
There are three crucial characteristics of prosperous nations that are blatantly absent in much of Africa.
1. Genuine Love and Care for one another.
This is a love that knows no bounds - irrespective of ethnic background, creed, or the way one looks.
It is something we need to take very very seriously. We need to encourage African children to love and respect one another, regardless of background, circumstance, or aesthetics.
In the very first Izi and Larry book, Izi notices a tall green Dinosaur (Larry) in the corner of the zoo. He's all by himself. None of the other animals are interacting with him because he looks so different. But, rather than ignore, or stay away from him because he's different to all the others, Izi approaches Larry the Dinosaur, introduces herself, and offers him some sweets. Thus begins an amazing and wonderful friendship.
We not only need to understand other cultures and creeds, but we must learn to tolerate and respect them. This is why Izi and Larry visit so many different places; thereby learning about different cultures and faiths. By appreciating and respecting different faiths and cultures, we stand a far better chance of being United in Love, Peace, and Progress.
The Amazing Adventures of Izi and Larry Children's Books series is first and foremost an educational one. As well as Educating our children about African History and Culture, the books will empower them (children) with far better vocabulary; thereby strengthening their ability to structure good sentences more effectively.
So there we have it - Love, Unity, and Education - the three pillars of successful and prosperous nations. It may be a little too late for our generation, but it certainly isn't (too late) for children aged between 5 and 11.
If we really want a new and better Africa in thirty / fourty years time, then we must empower our children with Knowledge, Education, Love, and Wisdom.
This is what the Izi and Larry Children's Books Series is about - educating children with Knowledge of our History and Culture, as well as empowering them with better Vocabulary, Reading, and Comprehension skills.
Finally, the lead character, Izi, is named after my darling daughter, Izabella, as an eternal token of my love for the most adorable girl in all the world.