Penda, a young Fulani girl from Niger, takes a long journey by herself to bring her shepherd father a nourishing bowl of milk.
She travels through sand dunes, crosses a river, walks through the plains and treks up a mountain. She sees camels, desert jinns (are they imaginary?), masked dancers and the unusual pale giraffes of West Africa. She endures a smelly fishing boat. She admonishes herself not to spill a drop, telling herself, “Don’t shiver, don’t quiver, don’t fall in the river, girl.” That’s why it’s so sad when a final accident of fate upsets her plans for a successful end to her task, but her wise father has a different perspective. In an author’s note, Davies explains that he has visited the region where the book is set from his home in Burkina Faso. He has worked with the artist in the past and wanted to give him an opportunity to picture the area’s diverse geography. The intensity of the colors used in these gouache paintings will keep eyes riveted to the pages. The naïve, flattened style emphasizes the colorful clothing, and a double-page spread in which Penda walks through a mass dance is quite striking.
A satisfying story, perfect for reading aloud, set in a part of Africa that is rarely shown in children’s books. (Picture book. 4-7)