Bibi & Babu in Africa by Bonnie  Toews

Bibi & Babu in Africa

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Recalling their trip to Tanzania, two grandparents offer photos and a collection of facts about animals on safari, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and the plight of Tanzanian orphans.

Some grandparents are homebodies; others travel the world and bring home pictures. Christiansen and Toews are the second kind. Here, combining their travel photos with reminiscences and factual data, they share memories of their trip to Kenya, Nairobi, and mostly Tanzania. The story is broken down into three sections: the safari, Christiansen’s journey up Mount Kilimanjaro, and the couple’s experiences at Kilimanjaro Orphanage Center. The book begins with an introduction that uses colonialist language: “Here we meet simple, loving, peaceful people with no apparent racial bias. The soulful eyes and bright smiles of Tanzanian children remind us of an innocence lost in our fast-paced technological world of today. Yet, ironically, even in the primitive villages of the Maasai tribe, we see teenagers talking into cell phones.” The repeated use of the word “primitive” may also grate on some parents and teachers. The adventure begins as Toews and Christiansen, nicknamed Bibi and Babu (“grandma” and “grandpa” in Swahili) by their safari driver/guide, spend time in a Maasai village where Christiansen asked question after question and performed admirably in a Maasai ceremony welcoming outsiders. The couple and their tour group headed out into the Serengeti, where they saw all sorts of wildlife. The pictures in this section are the book’s greatest draw: young readers will fawn over the tiny baby blue monkey, admire the giraffes, and be worried at how close the lions were to the Land Cruisers. (Some of the images are listed in the frontmatter as stock photography, but most are the authors’ travel photos.) After the safari, Christiansen journeyed to the peak of Kilimanjaro; his photographs dominate this section, accompanied by very little text. The final section introduces children of the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre, praising their gratitude while discussing the challenges the orphanage faces in caring for them. The book’s layout, in columns, is occasionally made strange due to photo placement, so it’s sometimes hard to follow the flow of the text down one column and up through the next; at least one image is strangely edited. The book wavers from educational to conversational—much like a conversation with grandparents—and thus lands indecisively between being a classroom aid and a memoir.

An approachable grandparent voice guides students interested in African animals, mountain climbing, and travel, with great pictures to match. 

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-940145-46-4
Page count: 72pp
Publisher: Whistler House Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:


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