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Children of the Quicksands

Book Synopsis

In a remote Nigerian village, thirteen-year-old Simi is desperate to uncover a family secret…


City girl Simi is sent to stay with her long-lost grandmother in a remote Nigerian village. There’s no TV, internet or phone. Not a single human-made sound can be heard at night, just the noise of birds and animals rustling in the dark forest outside.

Her witchlike grandmother dispenses advice and herbal medicine to the village, but she’s tight lipped about their family history. Something must have happened, but what?

Determined to find out, Simi disobeys her grandmother and goes exploring. Caught in the sinking red quicksand of a forbidden lake, her fantastical journey begins …

A richly imagined magical fantasy adventure set in West Africa by a prize-winning new voice in children’s writing.

Introduces readers to Yoruba myths and legends whilst showcasing the wealth of culture, traditions, adventure, fun, joy, celebrations, music, pride and love found in Nigeria.

Beautifully explores themes of grief and belonging.

Efua is the winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2018.

Our Review Panel says...

Set in Nigeria, the story centres on 13-year-old Simi, sent away from the city by her busy mother to stay with her grandmother in Ajao, whom she has never met and who is not expecting her. There’s no internet, TV or phone; just the sounds of birds and animals. Why has her mother never spoken of her grandmother? Her grandmother readily dispenses advice and healing potions and tinctures to the community yet remains silent on the topic of her own family. Simi only knows that she must keep away from the forbidden lake and jungle-like forest, but soon defies her grandmother and decides to explore. While at the lake, she is pulled under by the dangerous quicksand and her fantastical journey begins; a journey that she can share with no one. Will she uncover the truth? Can the years of rifts be healed?

This is a beautiful story with an evocative setting. The reader is drawn to the rich sights, sounds and smells of the remote setting with its mysteries woven into a story dealing with separation, grief and loss. It is Simi’s personal story, yet the history that she uncovers is also deeply powerful and moving: the story of a family dealing with loss in their own individual ways. It is her grandmother, Iyanla, whose secrets we want to uncover and, when we do, it is via a tale steeped in Yoruba folklore and magic.

This story radiates warmth and colour and deserves a place in a KS2 library. The book itself is a thing of beauty with a stunning cover by Helen Crawford-White. Display this on your classroom shelf and it just begs to be picked up by any middle-grade child in search of a wonderful adventure.

This book is available on these booklists:

KS2 Children of the Quicksands Teaching Resource

Chapter-by-chapter resources provided by the publisher, including comprehension questions, writing opportunities and cross-curricular ideas.

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