Naidoo and Grobler follow up their Afrocentric collection of Aesop’s Fables (2011) with a fresh set of tales drawn from Amharic, Luo, Zulu and other traditions.
“Once, Lion wanted to check that all the animals knew who was boss. So he went to each in turn.” In these breezy retellings the lessons are pointed but (generally) nonfatal: Lion gets a sudden comeuppance from Elephant (“Who is King?”); Hippo discovers that Fire is a chancy friend (“Why Hippo Has No Hair”); a clever “Miller’s Daughter” outwits a harsh sultan with help from a djinni; an elephant with a newly stretched-out trunk uses it not for spanking, as Kipling’s Elephant’s Child does, but to make eating and drinking easier. In his cartoon illustrations, Grobler outfits humans in traditional regional dress and animals either similarly or sometimes with vibrant stripes or other decorative patterns. The stories range from one to six pages each, and the language lends itself with equal ease to reading aloud or silently. Though aside from an occasional word or song they are light on specific cultural markers, the tales offer a rich assortment of chuckle-worthy tricks, suspenseful adventures and salutary examples of behavior laudable or otherwise.
A buoyant eye-opener for younger readers under the impression that African folk tales begin and end with Anansi. (introduction, source notes) (Folk tales. 7-9)