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THE LONELY LIONESS AND THE OSTRICH CHICKS by Verna Aardema

THE LONELY LIONESS AND THE OSTRICH CHICKS

adapted by Verna Aardema, illustrated by Yumi Heo

Age Range: 3 - 8

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-679-86934-4
Publisher: Knopf

 A lonely lioness and a resolute mother ostrich take center stage among a cast of African animal characters in this model Aardema retelling of a Masai folktale. As in Who's in Rabbit's House? (1977), Aardema (Jackal's Flying Lesson, 1995, etc.) bases the tale on a version from her 1969 Tales for the Third Ear (o.p.). Her simplified, uncluttered tale with a modified ending contains many ingredients of good storytelling: villain and trickster, threat of danger, the seemingly weak outwitting the strong, and animals with human foibles. When a lioness, who would be happy with even one cub, sees four ostrich chicks, she impulsively steals them and calls them her own. Mother Ostrich solicits help from a gazelle, a hyena, a jackal, but it's the clever mongoose who outsmarts the lioness. Aardema uses repetition and pacing along with sounds based on African ideophones to tell this tale of a mother's unwavering determination to protect and rescue her vulnerable children from the lioness's misplaced longings. Setting the tale apart are Heo's subtle, distinctive paintings with African motifs in a fresh and unexpected primitive folk style. Unique compositions and perspectives, combined with a subdued palette that uses all the greens, golds, and ochres of the grasslands, challenge existing geometric notions of African art. (Picture book/folklore. 3-8)