World folktale collections should welcome this beautifully illustrated volume.

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ANIMAL VILLAGE

A group of animals tries working together to save a village in this picture book based on an African story.

In West Africa, there is a peaceful village of only animals, ruled by Chief Zamboha, the lion. But one year, their tranquility is interrupted by a drought that lasts long past the dry season. Zamboha asks all the creatures for ideas, and tortoise Timba tells the group about a tale from their ancestors that said water could be found by digging. While the community is skeptical, Zamboha supports Timba, and the animals begin to dig. They dig for days and days, and finally they grow tired and doubt the tortoise’s supposed wisdom. Faced with a rebellion, Zamboha watches helplessly as the villagers tell Timba to leave. Although the tortoise is determined to never go back, she pauses near a dry riverbed and decides to dig once more. Soon she finds water, and, despite the rejection of her cohorts, she returns to share it with them. Overjoyed, the animals make her their chief. LaTeef (The Hunter and the Ebony Tree, 2002, etc.) skillfully captures the folktale’s flavor, using repeated refrains—especially Timba’s “everything is possible, by and by”—to reinforce the story’s themes. While the message is powerful, it’s the acrylic, India ink, and collage images that will command children’s attention. The collage aspect gives the animals depth and texture, and the contrast of the earth tones with the bright blue water is stunning. LaTeef is an author/illustrator to watch.

World folktale collections should welcome this beautifully illustrated volume.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-9988-647-46-9

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Sub-Saharan Publishers

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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