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SENSE PASS KING by Katrin Tchana Kirkus Star


A Story from Cameroon

by Katrin Tchana & illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Age Range: 4 - 7

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2002
ISBN: 0-8234-1577-5
Publisher: Holiday House

Rich colors and expertly posed people and animals bring both lushness and specificity to this gorgeously illustrated tale from Cameroon. “In the land of seven villages,” a child named Ma’antah is born. By age two, she can speak all seven languages and communicate with animals. She is nicknamed Sense Pass King because she has more sense—and wisdom and capability—than the king himself. His two jealous attempts to kill her are thwarted by her cunning, and as the years go by, she grows smarter and more respected. The king, ever threatened, then takes her into his personal custody. On a voyage, Ma’antah—brought along simply to cook—earns the custodianship of a beautiful girl whom the sour king had wished to marry. An ocean must be crossed and a sea monster defeated before they return home—and guess who the hero is? Upon arrival, the king’s soldiers refuse to let him steal the credit, and he is finally banished. Ma’antah is made queen, and in an ending refreshingly devoid of marriage, she and the other girl live on happily together. Hyman (Children of the Dragon, not reviewed, etc.) masterfully balances line and brush stroke: on one spread, a vast watery ocean in liquid greens conveys an entirely different texture from the red and yellow flames shooting upwards, while brilliantly poised on the edge of the ship, Ma’antah arches on tiptoe to shoot a bow and arrow. It’s too bad that Hyman resorts to the stock stereotype of drawing the evil king as fat; otherwise, these riveting acrylic paintings shine with clarity, humanity, and beauty. (Picture book/folktale. 4-7)