From the African savanna comes a trickster tale featuring a clever monkey and his musical bow.
Monkey finds the bow and is plucking out notes with it when Hyena comes along and accuses Monkey of robbery. This is a dilemma that must be solved by the opinionated Lion. Unfortunately, Lion has a corrupt streak and demands the bow. Monkey beseeches Lion to allow him to play it one last time. As he does, all the animals begin dancing themselves into a frenzy. Monkey plays faster and faster and is able to take advantage of the animals’ exhaustion to keep the bow for himself. The story is laden with the aggression that tends to accompany such trickster tales, in which a physically weak animal often utilizes intellect and wit to outsmart a stronger creature. This is accentuated by Grobler’s distinctively splattery and somewhat macabre illustrations. Messy lines and vigorous flourishes create a grim dreamscape. Readers will likely respond to the imagery with immense attraction or revulsion; there is little room for middle ground. Though a small note about the story indicates its South African origins, within the text a generic “Africa” setting is, unfortunately, deployed, perpetuating an image of the continent in which all that exists are wilderness and the animals that inhabit it. A note on the instrument follows.
A strange and provocative addition to the canon of trickster tales. (Picture book/folktale. 5-9)