A rhythmic Swahili song, a gender switch and a grafted-on happy ending sweeten this version of a West African tale about a childless woman who makes a rash promise to a tree spirit.
Being “young, married and barren,” Oluronbi travels to the Iroko tree to ask for a child. Being proud and also either greedy or pigheaded (this is never made clear), instead of begging, she rudely demands a beautiful daughter—and instead of the traditional offering of goods, she promises said daughter to the tree after five years. Of course she reneges on that promise, but when the tree’s spirit (female here, male in other versions) seizes the child, so great is her remorse that the spirit gives it back and mother and daughter live happily ever after. The illustrations are cleanly drawn but rather staid, depicting Nigerian figures in brightly patterned dress and village settings. They are brightened up both by a chorus that sings a song to the Iroko Spirit in one scene but can be heard in the background throughout and by a particularly lively, accented narrator. Options include autoplay, suppressed text (though that also hides the occasional pop-up window containing cultural side notes), and access to both the menu and a thumbnail page index available from any screen. Three tile games are tacked on at the end. There are no in-app purchases, though sending feedback requires registration.
A bland digital alternative to Phillis Gershator and Holly C. Kim’s Iroko-Man (1994) that, in its own mild but firm way, makes points about respecting nature and keeping promises. (iPad folktale. 6-8)