ONLY ONE COWRY by Phillis Gershator


A Dahomean Tale
adapted by , illustrated by
Age Range: 4 - 7
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The wealthy, yet stingy, king of Dahomey (now Benin) is ready to marry, but he is only willing to offer one meager cowry shell as dowry in a retelling “freely based on African folklore.” A clever young subject named Yo volunteers to find a bride for the king and sets off with the one cowry, bartering along the way until he has accumulated enough goods to offer a respectable number of gifts to a village chief. At each stop, Yo lists his growing stash in a refrain children will enjoy that ends “Well, well, I’m doing well, / thanks to Dada Segbo’s shell.” The chief’s clever daughter in turn uses her guile to obtain food and drink for her village and clothing (including jewelry made of hundreds of cowry shells) for herself from the king before consenting to the marriage. Soman’s collage illustrations flow across double-page spreads in a pleasing combination of colors, textures, and patterns, with black lines providing detail, especially of faces. They aptly convey the rural village and tropical setting of this West African tale. A humorous touch is Soman’s depiction of the increasingly exhausted messenger. A concluding author’s note provides background and cites the sources of this amusing, cumulative-type tale. (Picture book/folktale. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-531-30288-1
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Orchard
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2000


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