One Chance Dance


Jomi’s Aunty Patience laughs at his hopes and dreams and punishes his inventions. Yet his time on the scrap hill is time to imagine and create. It also helps him remember his mother, who left him with his Aunty and Uncle when she travelled to Lagos for work. She promised she’d return for him, just as she promised she’d write every week.

However, he’s heard nothing, and weeks have become years. Yet when the bulldozers move into the farm land and forests about his Aunty and Uncle’s home more than their livelihood’s are disturbed. Could it be that there are letters? Then again, might there be clues as to Jomi’s mother’s whereabouts? Could it all lead to him packing a rucksack and leaving for the big city of twenty million on a seemingly impossible search?

Yet there might be a way? What if Jomi’s lucky enough to be found by children cared for by Aunty Bisi? It seems they love LLD, Lagos Loves Dance, the dance show mentioned in one of Jomi’s mother’s letters. What if the children put together an act. After all, the host reminds viewers, ‘everybody and anybody can take part in [the] free auditions‘… It will take some planning and persuading, but doesn’t Aunty Bisi remind Jomi not to abandon his ‘dreams and hopes’? Then again, what about Jomi’s mother?

Bookwagon loves One Chance Dance. Jomi is such a determined, inspiring central character that we feel as attached to him as Ghost, the bush baby who shadows him. Thereafter, we want him to be safe, cared for and respected. What’s more, we want him, and his mother, to have the chances they deserve. Bookwagon recommends One Chance Dance to all middle grade readers.

The Times Children’s Book of the Year

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One Chance Dance

Efua Traore

(Chicken House)

Jomi’s mother promised to write to him and promised to return to collect him from Uncle and Aunty’s. However years have passed and Jomi struggles to remember her at times. It seems his happy moments now are upon the scrap hill, where he collects thrown away objects for ‘nothing is truly useless’.
However, what if the trucks that dump the goods become bulldozers that destroy the forest and surroundings? Then again, what if Jomi discovers the truth about his mother’s letters? Might it lead him to brave his way to Lagos to find her, with nothing other than his rucksack and …. a bush baby?
Could it be that after an eventful journey, Jomi might find shelter with the children who lodge with Aunty Bisi? Jomi’s always been one for plans, but it seems that connecting news from his mother about a dance competition, to LLD, stirs an idea. Might forming a dancing group with the other children offer a One Chance Dance for Jomi’s mother to find him? Although there is so much against them, from Hassan, to music, to transport, it seems that Jomi’s ‘dreams and hopes‘ nspire his new ‘family’.
Efua Traoré enthralled us with Children of the Quicksands. Thereafter, Once Chance Dance delights us and fills us with hope. What’s more, we feel as though we’re part of Jomi’s journey alongside Ghost, from the destroyed farm to bustling Lagos, seeking family, warmth and a fair break. We recommend this superb, heart-warming story to our middle grade readers.


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