Sunday, May 8, 2011

Misoso retold by Verna Aardema

A great collection of Folktales originating from south of the Sahara Desert along the coast....."from the Temmes of Sierra Leone, down the west coast to the Khoikhoi of Southwest Africa; then up the east coast, beginning with the Zulus of south Africa, north to the Swahilis of the eastern African Coast; then westward overland to the Emo-Yo-Quaim of Nigeria," as the author describes in the Introduction of this book.  A map is provided so that the readers can visually make their way down to each region as the stories are told.

Misoso means Once upon a Time.  It comes from the Mbundu tribe of Angola and it is told that these stories are told for entertainment purposes but if they teach a lesson that is just a plus.  The book encapsulates 12 folktales.  LeeLee Goro is a Temne Tale, Anansi and the Phantom Food is a tale from Liberia, The Boogey Man's Wife is a Mano Tale, Half-A-Ball-Of-Kenki is an Ashanti Tale and The Hen and the Dove is an Ashanti Fable, The Sloogey Dog and the Stolen Aroma is a Fang Tale, The Cock and the Jackel is a Khoikhoi Fable, No, Boconono is a Zulu Tale, Toad's Trick is a Kanuri Fable, Goso the teacher is a Swahili narrative Poem, the Hapendeki and Binit the Bibi is a Swahili Tale, and finally Kindai and the Ape is A Tale of the Emo-Yo-Quaim.

LeeLee Goro was a bit curious to me because it was about a little girl that fought.  Animals in a neara by village needed fire.  They knew where to go but in order to get it they would have to ask Mammy for it.  Mammy was somewhat of a witch doctor.  She told each animal that if they could beat up her young daughter they would get what they wanted.  Each animal thought this was an easy task but instead got beat themselves.  Elephant, spider, antelope, and lion were all not strong or crafty enough for this task.  Along came snail.  Snail had an idea to rub slippery spit all over so that the little girl would slip.  Sure enough it worked.  The consequences were that the animals got back their fire and Mammy and baby cried because of what occurred which brought crying back into the world.

One fable that is simple yet one we try to teach children everyday was the Toad's Trick.  One day a toad and a rat were talking.  The toad told the rat that he could do something that the toad could not.  The rat thought this was purpostuous!  Toad made a bet with rat that he could go right through some men who were sitting under a ficus tree without being harmed.  So, the toad did.  He went right through the men only to hear by them that frogs were good because they ate frogs.  When the rat tried to do the same the men ran after it to the woods trying to hit it all the way.  The moral of the story was that there are some things that each and everyone of us can only do and no one else can.

Reviews by Booklist and The School Library Journal gave this book high marks stating that the lighthearted stories combined with a good lesson is just right for children ages 5 - 10 years old.  I agree.  These short little stories make the reader more likely to stay focus to the lesson while enjoying each word.

The illustrator, Reynold Ruffins, stayed with dark colors giving the book an African appeal (maroons, black and white, orange, and pastels were used throughout. Full-color illustrations using pencil and acrylic complemented each story and the characters in each.

The author, Verna Aardema, has been writing traditional tales and folklore since 1960 (when she published her first set of stories, Tales from the Story Hat).  Many of her stories about Africa came from her love of reading herself.  She has retold many of the tales she read.

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