26 Nov / Today Is the Day by Eric Walters, Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Today is the third title by Canadians Eric Walters and Eugenie Fernandes that captures real-life events from Walters’ The Creation of Hope complex in Kenya. Together, Walters and Fernandes have become quite the dynamic duo in developing an effective series showcasing the inspiring, courageous stories of resilient, caring children who live in The Creation of Hope’s Rolling Hills residence in the rural community of Kikima in Kenya’s Mbooni District.
Mutanu, on whom Today‘s spotlight shines, tries to always live up to her name which means ‘happy.’ She’s lost her parents and somehow survived on very little, but she’s now a part of the Rolling Hills family of 55 children.
Today, everybody is happy because celebration and surprises await. Before the festivities can begin, the children are tasked with finishing their daily chores. For Mutanu, that means sweeping the yard and feeding Rafiki the compound watchdog a special meal (holding the new puppies is a cuddly bonus).
From all over and around, guests soon arrive, including Mutanu’s grandmother who cared for her after her parents’ deaths until she became too frail: “‘I could not be happier,’” Mutanu assures her beloved elder. After many hugs and kisses shared among the children and their visiting relatives, “it began. The moment all the children had been waiting for.”
And what might that be? In addition to gifts and candle-lit cakes comes much-needed affirmation: “‘Each year we gather to celebrate the birthdays of all the children of the orphanage,’” the matron explains. “‘Today is the day. Some of you know the date of your birth and some of you do not. For those who do not know, today and forever, July the twelfth will now officially be your birthday!’” Happy, happy indeed!
Beyond the balloons and merriment, the final five pages tell even more of Mutanu’s story – complete with photographs of her very real life. Birthdays are indeed “a cause for joyous celebration,” but it’s also a much-needed legal stepping stone: an official birthdate is the first requirement in obtaining an official government-issued birth certificate. More than a piece of paper, it’s a promise that “[t]he government must acknowledge [the children] as real people with all the rights of citizens.” And that’s undoubtedly a most excellent reason to have the cake and eat it, too!
Here’s to a grateful day for us all. Today (and every day) is the day for that!