THE MAGIC GOURD

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)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-439-43960-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2003

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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HELLO, HARVEST MOON

As atmospheric as its companion, Twilight Comes Twice, this tone poem pairs poetically intense writing with luminescent oils featuring widely spaced houses, open lawns, and clumps of autumnal trees, all lit by a huge full moon. Fletcher tracks that moon’s nocturnal path in language rich in metaphor: “With silent slippers / it climbs the night stairs,” “staining earth and sky with a ghostly glow,” lighting up a child’s bedroom, the wings of a small plane, moonflowers, and, ranging further afield, harbor waves and the shells of turtle hatchlings on a beach. Using creamy brushwork and subtly muted colors, Kiesler depicts each landscape, each night creature from Luna moths to a sleepless child and her cat, as well as the great moon sweeping across star-flecked skies, from varied but never vertiginous angles. Closing with moonset, as dawn illuminates the world with a different kind of light, this makes peaceful reading either in season, or on any moonlit night. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2003

ISBN: 0-618-16451-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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