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Fourth-Grader Publishes Book, Finishing Her Second

Budding Author is Daughter of Refugees


The stories seem to flow out of fourth-grade student Oummu Kabba’s pencil and onto the paper. She writes narratives with strong characters, suspense and excitement. At just 8 years old, she is the published author of “Charlie the Talking Dog,” a tale that involves chatty animals and a dog with a dark secret.

The humble student is busy polishing up the final two chapters of her next book, about a girl from Paris who moves to the United States and has her journal stolen by a bully at school.

Why did she decide to write books? “I was bored,” said Oummu, who started Kentwood Public Schools’ gifted-and-talented program PEAKS at Discovery Elementary School in September. She began writing her book at age 6, when she was in second grade at Kentwood’s Meadowlawn Elementary.

It took a lot of time and effort, but it was worth it, Oummu said. “It makes me feel happy because if you are going to make a book, you better be happy about it,” she reasoned.

Newcomers to America

The young author is the daughter of refugees who had no formal education. Brima Kabba, Oummu’s father, was born in Sierra Leone. He was a refugee in Guinea when he met and married his wife, Fanta. They eventually settled in Malta and were part of a group chosen by the U.S. government to come to America in 2009, when Oummu was 3. “We were very lucky to be selected,” Brima said.

Oummu has three siblings: her sister Rugui, 10, brother Alpha, 7, and 5-month-old brother Amadu.

Brima Kabba said he didn’t realize Oummu’s journal writing was developing into a book. When he took a look at her work, he was surprised. “I asked her, ‘Who wrote this?'”

Brima was so impressed, he promised to publish the book when Oummu finished. True to his word, he worked to get it published by Chapbook Press, through Schuler Books, where it is now available for purchase.

“I don’t have the right word to say how I feel about it,” said Brima, who works at Cascade Engineering. “I think it is a dream come true. That is what all parents hope for. You send your kids to school to be better and benefit themselves.”

He looks forward to seeing what Oummu accomplishes. “Her next book is almost ready,” he said.

Oummu said she also loves to sing, read and draw. She hopes to become a doctor, teacher or zoo veterinarian and travel all over the world.

Oummu’s teacher, Amanda Barbour, said it’s incredibleto have a published author in her classroom. “I’ve never had a student who has had this recognition at a very young age,” Barbour said.

A gifted student in general, Oummu’s writing stands out the most, Barbour said.

“She goes to write and completely gets lost in her writing. She’s laser-focused.”

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Where to Buy “Charlie the Talking Dog”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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