Review: Non-Fiction Photographic Story ‘Amoako and the Forest’

Amoako and the Forest, written by Deborah Cowley, photos by Kathy Knowles (OSU Children's Library Fund, Canada, 2008)

Amoako and the Forest
written by Deborah Cowley, photos by Kathy Knowles
(OSU Children’s Library Fund, Canada, 2008)

Amoako, whose smiling face beams out from the cover of Amoako and the Forest, is a forester in Ghana; and through Deborah Cowley’s first-person text he describes his work with a legal logging company.  He takes us through when and how trees are felled; the dangers and challenges of his work; the ways trees are identified and identifiable at all times; the process from felling to beautifully crafted furniture via the timber yard; what happens with leftover wood so that nothing is wasted; and the forest regeneration programme running alongside the felling.

At the beginning of the book, Amoako introduces readers to his family and talks about how he became a forester, so that by the time he leads into an explanation of his work and the logging process, the book doesn’t feel like a non-fiction tract but more of a personal tour given by Amoako. He describes what his work is like and we learn that, interestingly, trees are never cut down on a Friday because it is taboo. Stunning photographs offer a blend of Amoako’s personal story and informative, jaw-dropping images of trees at every stage of the process.

There are a good many books that highlight issues of deforestation and illegal logging around the world, so it is good to have a book like Amoako and the Forest that shows how responsible, legal logging can be carried out sustainably – as Amoako says at the end: ‘It is important for everyone to understand how precious trees are. By doing so, we will preserve our beautiful forests for years to come.’

A glossary provides definitions for various logging terms and some local expressions. Amoako and the Forest is part of non-profit OSU Children’s Library Fund‘s Resources of Ghana series: and indeed, it is a wonderful book for children in Ghana to read about an important aspect of their country’s culture and economy – but it also deserves a wider audience, as a local story that touches on internationally relevant issues, brought to life through Amoako’s engaging voice and the visual impact of the photographs.

Marjorie Coughlan
March 2015


  1. Thank you for taking the time to review this book. It was a fascinating experience and privilege to both understand and record the process.

  2. Thank you, Kathy. Your photos are glorious, and I love the mix of people-portraits and getting in close to Amoako’s work. I kept imagining how many people it would take to span the girth of some of those trees!

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