Children of the Quicksand

Children of the Quicksand
Age Range
Release Date
July 26, 2022
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In a remote Nigerian village, thirteen-year-old Simi is desperate to uncover a family secret. Ajao is nothing like Lagos -- no cells phones, no running water or electricity. 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 only to find herself sinking in the red quicksand of a forbidden lake and into the strange parallel world that lies beneath. It must have been a dream… right?

Wrong. Something isn’t right. Children are disappearing and it’s up to Simi to discover the truth.

Editor review

1 review
Caught between feuding goddesses
Overall rating
Writing Style
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What worked:
The story is based on Nigerian mythology, which is not the topic of many middle-grade novels. Nigerian geography and culture are included as Simi travels from Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria, to her grandmother’s tiny village in the jungle. The rutted, unpaved roads, dense trees, and rustic huts will transport readers to this remote African setting. Iyanla, Simi’s grandmother, is the priestess for the goddess Oshun and says the goddess is in conflict with another goddess named Oya. The result of the feud is that more children are disappearing and drought is killing farmers’ crops. Some people no longer believe in the goddesses but Iyanla fears what will happen to the lands if the leaders proceed with their drastic plans.
Simi knows nothing about her grandmother’s village, the place where her mother grew up. Everyone remembers Simi’s mother and there’s vague talk about something happening that caused her mother to leave home. Her mother never talks about it and is overly concerned with Simi’s safety. Simi accidentally stumbles upon a forbidden place even before she’s aware of its dangers. Surprisingly, she’s able to escape but has trouble believing it actually happens. However, how can she imagine something before other people have even told her about it? Simi begins to learn about her grandmother’s superstitions and beliefs and discovers her mother’s doubts are misplaced. Simi also hears of a great tragedy from years ago that explains her mother’s fears and over-protectiveness.
The author allows the conflict and suspense to slowly develop. Simi’s encounter with the forbidden place early in the plot provides legitimacy to the tales she hears later on. It almost acts like a bit of foreshadowing even though it’s already happened. The villagers are worried about the heat and their crops are starving for moisture. They hope Iyanla can get Oshun to help but the goddess isn’t responding to the priestess’s prayers. The author allows the supernatural fight to simmer, then boil, and disturbing weather becomes an omen signaling the approaching climax.
What didn’t work as well:
Simi’s silence regarding the forbidden place is puzzling. It’s understandable early on since she disobeys Iyanla’s directive and questions if it really happened. However, once she learns more about the goddesses, the lake, and the missing children it’s not clear why she doesn’t speak to her grandmother. Simi eventually reveals the truth so it all works out in the end. I guess I anticipated the reveal more than Simi.
The Final Verdict:
This book is a finalist for the 2022 Cybils Award in Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction. The author artfully crafts different levels of emotions and tension to produce this riveting tale based on Nigerian folklore. I highly recommend you give it a shot!
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