African tales get makeovers in this eclectic collection of fables in the form of comics.
In Nicole Chartrand’s opening story, a beautiful, vain, and “disobedient daughter” turns out to be clever and independent-minded, escaping from the monster who tricked her into marriage and turning her escape route into a business. A loving brother and sister who have run away from home outsmart cannibals and make off with their riches in Katie and Steven Shanahan’s “Demane and Demezana.” An arrogant young woman fails to impress the chief, while her humble, kind sister earns his offer of marriage, in Sloan Leong’s treatment of a tale from Zimbabwe. Some tales are familiar in form, such as an Anansi tale from Jose Pimienta, a myth called “Why Turtles Live in Water” from Jarrett Williams, and D. Shazzbana Bennett’s “Gratitude” fable, which is reminiscent of “The Lion and the Mouse.” Other stories feature Egyptian gods or science-fiction twists. Each is adapted and illustrated by a different artist, which makes for nice variety even if the different illustration styles and plots seem geared toward slightly different age groups. While the black-and-white drawings are expressive, some seem more like sketches than finished work, and regrettably, one, Mary Cagle’s “The Lion’s Whiskers,” lacks an African aesthetic. Despite these inconsistencies, the collection feels balanced and diverse. Thumbnail bios of each contributor follow along with a few concept drawings.
Dynamic and thought-provoking, this foray into the world of African fables and fairy tales is sure to entertain young readers who welcome both strong messages and open-ended myths. (Graphic folktales. 9-13)