Books by Baba Wagué Diakité

Released: March 1, 2007

Tales of humans marrying animals are known in many countries, and this example from the West African country of Mali will delight readers and listeners with its touches of humor. Mee-An will only consent to wed an extremely handsome man, and the one who meets her stringent requirements turns out to be a serpent in disguise. Her younger sister, with magical powers of her own, saves her from the serpent's evil plot to eat them both. The writer and artist of this folktale is well known for his down-to-earth renditions of traditional tales from his homeland. He dedicates the book to his grandmother, from whom he "heard his first stories," but does not provide any further background on this particular story, as he has done in his other books. The small square format echoes the shape of the ceramic tiles painted in Diakité's unique style, but the rich details of the clothing, the houses, the villagers' activities, the flora and the fauna will be lost in a group presentation. Combining elements of a pourquoi story and a cautionary tale, this is an enjoyable work, but not the author-illustrator's best. (Folklore. 6-9)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2006

Penda, the author, and Amina, the subject of her older sister's book, are the children of the inventive Malian author/illustrator who has shared his culture through retellings of traditional folktales and creative ceramic-tile illustrations with distinctive borders. Now the father uses his art detailing village life in Mali to illustrate a story written by his elder daughter when she was eight. Instead of getting money from the Tooth Fairy, children in Mali get a chicken. Born in Portland, Ore., Amina loses her tooth on a vacation trip to Mali and gets two chickens, a hen and a rooster. When they begin to lay eggs, she hopes that she will see the baby chicks before she has to return home. Diakité includes a recipe for Malian onion sauce, mentioned in the text, a glossary and a goodnight song in Bambara, one of the languages used in Mali. The young author's descriptions offer an amusing introduction to one African country, and an excellent way to encourage children to start writing their own family stories. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
JAMARI’S DRUM by Ebony Bynum
Released: Nov. 1, 2004

An elder's warning that the great djembe drum must be beaten every day or "the sky would turn black and the ground would grow hot and begin to melt under our feet," turns out to be exactly prophetic in this original tale, co-written by a professional drummer and illustrated with small but striking ceramic tile paintings. Young Jamari inherits the village's drum, but what with the distractions of daily life, soon puts it away—until the eruption of a nearby volcano recalls him to his duty; rather than join the general panic, he sits down to rap out "BEDE BADA BOOM KABEDE / BEDE BADA BOOM KABEDE / BEDE BADA BOOM KABEDE," and, miraculously, the volcano quiets. There's a whiff of magic here that hints at a lesson or metaphor, but it's the drum's beat, the catastrophe narrowly averted, and the strongly drawn African scenes, done in warm browns and golds, that will stay with younger readers. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
THE MAGIC GOURD by Baba Wagué Diakité
Released: Feb. 1, 2003

An intense artistic experience awaits the reader of this highly moral, Malian version of a "magic pot" folktale. Rabbit saves Iguana from his imprisonment in a thorny bush and receives the "magic gourd" with its bottomless bounty as his reward. Rabbit shares his good fortune with everyone, until the avaricious king hears the stories. When the king takes the bowl, Iguana comes to Rabbit's rescue with a second gift, a magic stone that continually hits the king and forces him to bargain with Rabbit and eventually to return the gourd to him. In fact, he becomes so exasperated that he tells Rabbit to take the food in his storage bins as well as his gold, but when Rabbit leaves with only his rightful possession, the king takes it as a lesson. Diakité educates, entertains, and visually enchants from beginning to end. The back cover is a large, arresting picture of the smiling author-illustrator with his two beautiful daughters, holding a large bowl similar to the ones in the photographic images popping out of the deeply-colored pages of the interior. Richly detailed bowls, plates, sculptures, and textiles display stylized characters and mud cloth patterns that symbolize many concepts meaningful to the Bamana people of Mali. Diakité provides a wealth of explanatory material as well as glossary of Bambara words used in the text that greatly enhances the telling. The last few pages include a praise song and an author's note about learning stories about the clever Zazani, or Rabbit, in childhood. A description of the traditional mud cloth patterns used as the borders of the tiles and platters offers additional insights and will send the careful reader back to the story again and again. Finally, Diakité ends with a feature found in his earlier works, The Hunterman and the Crocodile (1997) and The Hatseller and the Monkeys (1999): the description of the international variants of this type of tale. Richly rewarding indeed. (Folktale. 5-10)Read full book review >
THE POT OF WISDOM by Adwoa Badoe
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

Ananse generally comes out second best in these ten folktales from Ghanaian author and storyteller Badoe (Queen's New Shoes, 1998, etc.). Usually, it's his own fault: unbridled greed drives him to steal food from his own family, only to be so embarrassed when caught that spiders still retreat to dark corners ("Why Ananse Lives on the Ceiling"); pride makes him style, and thereby drop and break, his pot of wisdom; bad behavior, or arrogance, lead him into further misfortune. Still, he does triumph now and again, becoming the "Owner of Stories" by capturing bees, Nanka the python, and an elusive forest dwarf, and gaining a beautiful wife with a clever trick (and keeping her with another). Badoe retells the tales, all of which she heard as a child, in a simply phrased, good-humored way. Diakité (The Hatseller and the Monkeys, 1999, etc.) opens each with an evocatively stylized picture, on a glazed earthenware tile, of a spider with human head and hands. Most of the stories will not be new to veteran Ananse fans, but the author's distinctive voice and variations give them fresh life. (Folktales. 7-10)Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1999

DiakitÇ (The Hunterman and the Crocodile, 1997) retells an African folktale—familiar to many children from Slobodkina's Caps For Sale (1940)—with a combination of charming storyline, cleverly executed theme, inviting illustrations, and unusual sound effects for read-aloud fun. Tiny monkeys border the pages as readers are introduced to hatseller BaMusa. His head piled high with his dibiri and fugulan caps, and too anxious to eat breakfast, BaMusa starts out for a festival to sell his wares. He falls asleep under a mango tree, only to have a mischievous crowd of monkeys swipe his hard work. Hungry, not thinking straight, BaMusa tries to get the caps back but almost despairs. A meal of the mango fruit gives him the strength to trick the monkeys into relinquishing his inventory. The festive, authentic, painted-tile illustrations match the ebullience of the colorful story; preschoolers will love—again—this smart and satisfying tale of monkey-see, monkey-do. (Picture book/folklore. 4-8) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1997

DiakitÇ's first book makes bold use of memories of his childhood in West Africa and of the hand-painted ceramic tiles that appear as the illustrations in this book. ``There was a time'' when the crocodile, Bamba, and his family, finding themselves hungry and exhausted en route to Mecca, ask Donso the Hunterman to return them to the river. Fearing for his safety, Donso complies only after Bamba promises no harm, carrying the crocodiles into the water in a neatly tied stack. Bamba goes back on his word, however, and Donso must beg for mercy; he asks other creatures and plants for help, only to find that ``Man'' has treated the earth so badly that no one but clever Rabbit will help him. Not only does Donso regain solid footing on land, but due to Rabbit's tricks, the crocodiles are once again securely stacked on Donso's head, trussed and ready for a feast. At home Donso learns that his wife is gravely ill and in need of crocodile tears, which are joyfully offered by Bamba's family in exchange for freedom. The moral of this folktale—that people should place themselves among rather than above all other living things—is timely, but it is the breaking of promises, the sound effects as the creatures decline to help Donso, the intervention of Rabbit, and the surprise finale that will entertain children most and that makes this dramatic tale worthy of story-hour inclusion. Sources are offered in an author's note. (Picture book/folklore. 4-7) Read full book review >