Diallo’s (No Fear: A Personal Memoir or My Journey with God, 2014) first picture book sees a superpowered family save its West African village from marauding ant monsters in by a first-time children’s author.
This original folktale-style fantasy spins a modest “Once upon a time” tale of a family—a mother, father, two boys, and one girl—in a small village in the West African country of Guinea. Each family member “possessed wonderful and supernatural powers that were only to be used for benevolent purposes.” Mother Mariama’s power has to do with cultivating crops; Mamadou, the father, never comes home from the hunt empty-handed. Big brother Bourouma can leap as high as the moon, while little brother Bouba can shrink objects and hear far away sounds, and sister Mimi can see great distances. One night, the girl spots a horde of spear-wielding “half-human, half-ant creatures” closing in on their village, and the three children use their powers to defeat the creatures. In folktale fashion, this involves covering the moon with a large cloth and shrinking the invaders into dust. The illustrations are colorful but pedestrian. And while the story has action to spare, Diallo might consider reworking the stilted aftermath: Mother and Father and the other villagers are mostly unaware that an epic battle has taken place; when the children relate their adventure, they are praised for working together: “We are very proud of all of you and are even happier that all of you defeated the creatures as a team,” the mom tells them. Diallo includes a hand-drawn map and facts about Guinea’s geography, language, economy and more; a vocabulary-boosting glossary offers mostly age-appropriate definitions of such words as “Abundance” (“plenty”), “Beaming” (“smiling”), “Realization” (“understanding”), and “Sturdy” (“strong”). “Confirmed” is less helpfully defined as “validated.”
This pleasant children’s adventure needs some tweaking for tone and illustrations.