German Calendar No December by Sylvia Ofili, illustrated by Birgit Weyhe [in Booklist]
As the oldest daughter of a German mother and Nigerian father in a small Nigerian town where everybody knows everybody, Olivia has valued books as windows to a life beyond. While anticipating boarding school in big-city Lagos, Olivia dreams of “all kinds of adventures,” Enid Blyton–style, filled with games, picnics, perhaps even a mystery to solve. What she endures instead is senseless abuse at the whim of upperclasswomen, until one scorching afternoon, she refuses further punishment, inspiring her fellow students to revolt.
After graduation, Olivia “can’t wait to get the hell out,” choosing university in her mother’s birthplace of Hamburg. While she was oyinbo (white European) in Nigeria, she’s suddenly Black in Germany, and the object of intrusive scrutiny. A part-time bakery job provides a welcoming haven, more so when the diverse staff starts sharing secrets.
Artist Birgit Weyhe presents Nigerian Hungarian Sylvia Ofili’s debut in a palette of greens and rusty browns, as if ironically invoking earthy tones to underscore Olivia’s own unsettled journeys. As Olivia readies herself to “move on” and find her own cause, the vast world awaits.