Children of the Quicksands

Children of the Quicksands

By Author / Illustrator

Efua Traore


Myths & Legends

Age range(s)



Chicken House




Paperback / softback




In a remote Nigerian village, twelve-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.

Find out more in our Q&A with Efua Traore



Simi has always lived in Lagos, a bustling city full of noise and people, so it comes as a huge shock when she is sent to stay with a Grandmother she has never met, in the remote village of Ajao, a quiet place unconnected to modern Nigeria. An air of secrecy shrouds Simi's family life and her Grandmother, Iyanla, a Priestess of Oshun, is giving nothing away.

As Simi learns more about the village, forms friendships and integrates into life in Ajao, she absorbs the Yoruba myths and legends of the area and uncovers a darkness surrounding a nearby lake and sinking red quicksands. To restore her family and save the village, Simi must face the darkness and fulfil her destiny.

Children of the Quicksands is a fascinating introduction to African folklore, that challenges stereotypes and subtly deals with themes of grief, family and self discovery. There are so many ways the novel can be enjoyed, whether as a class read, a jumping off point to explore African culture, history and geography, a wonderful basis for an author study, a talking point for PSHE elements or simply as a read for pleasure.

Children of the Quicksands is a versatile magical realism story for those aged 9+.

288 pages / Reviewed by Rhiannon Cook, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 9+


Simi is sent to stay with her grandmother in a remote Nigerian village. The thought of staying with someone she doesn't know in the middle of nowhere with no TV, no internet and no phone access fills Simi with horror, particularly as Simi's mother and grandmother are estranged. When she arrives, Simi quickly learns that her grandmother is highly respected by her community, making herbal remedies and caring for the village. Whilst exploring, Simi finds herself by the forbidden lake and is caught up in events which lead to her finding out about her family's past.

Children of the Quicksands is a much needed, special book which introduces its readers to an authentic voice describing the realities, contrasts and mythology of one of Africa's unique, diverse countries.

Seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old city girl, Ajao, the village where Iyanla (Simi's grandmother), initially seems basic and cut off from the amenities which Simi is used to in Lagos where she lives with her mother. The nights lack sounds she recognises, the silence punctuated only by the rustlings and calls of creatures and the ways and customs of the villagers seem strange. But the freedom she finds here, the warmth of the people and sense of community, soon lead her to see and value the nature of the village, allowing the reader a similar experience. Efua Traoré cleverly contrasts the simplicity, but warm, homeliness of her grandmother's house with the 'shades of grey' chosen by Simi's mother for their small flat in Lagos and the 'elegant house' her father shares with his girlfriend and other elements of life, subtly emphasising the contrasts within the country.

The story is steeped in Yoruba mythology and folklore, making a fascinating introduction to these stories and their cultural significance. Simi's magical adventure is rooted in these stories as she seeks the truth about her family's past and the secrets her mother has long held. Children of the Quicksands also explores grief and loss and how people try to cope with these emotions, encouraging empathy and understanding.  Friendship is also very much at the heart of the book with Simi finding two wonderful new friends, Jay and Bubu, very different personalities, with very different backgrounds.

The vivid writing and the rich cultural experience offered make the whole story a joy and perfect for using in school as a key text or as a guided reading book. I'm off to start planning now…

288 pages / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 9+


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