This sparsely illustrated picture-book debut from Garang, Kenyang, and Garang features a collection of folk tales from the village of Ajok in South Sudan.
Following an introduction suited to teachers or parents, this collection shares two tales that explain why people can’t live forever. In the first, a mother sparrow, angry that a human killed her child, cuts a cord so that people can no longer climb to heaven, be healed, and return; in the second, a haughty woman hits heaven with a pestle, startling it away. Both stories include Judeo-Christian references. The next explains craters on the moon, and in another, Cunning Fox marries his sister off to several suitors, proclaiming each inappropriate before the last turns her into a mushroom. Several brief stories about a hardworking, big-eating giant named Choldit take up another section, followed by other miscellaneous vignettes. These African tales will likely be unfamiliar to most American children. Some lose a bit in cultural translation (“ ‘Cut to the chest,’ as Americans would say”), but most are universal enough to entertain and offer moral lessons, helpfully pointed out by the authors. The few illustrations and photos are adequate but not engaging, and they do little to enhance the narrative.
An uneven collection, but one that provides unique insight into tales of a particular African region.