School Library Journal

August 2004

*starred review*

*WASHINGTON, Donna L. A Pride of African Tales. illus. by James Ransome. 70p. map. further reading notes. CIP. HarperCollins/Amistad. 2004. Tr $16.99. ISBN 0-06-024929-3; PLB $17.89. ISBN 0-06-024932-3. LC 94-18697.

Gr 1-5- Like a group of lions, these six stories are majestic. “Anansi’s Fishing Expedition” (Ghana), “The Roof of Leaves” (the Congo), “The Wedding Basket” (Nigeria), and “The Talking Skull” (Cameroon) are among the tales included. Each one begins with a short note of explanation as is identified as a pourquoi, trickster, or cautionary tale. A map of Africa pinpoints the countries of origin and brief source notes are appended. The morals are not lost, but the writing is not heavy-handed. The smooth retellings are paired with extraordinarily lush watercolors. Most of the paintings are single page but there are several dramatic spreads that capture the eye. Taking a cue from African textiles, Ransome uses distinctive borders that mirror elements from the text- a clothe patter, a leafy fern, a cheetah’s spots. These selections can be read alone but they beg to be shared aloud. The phrasing and cadences invite pauses and should encourage successful retelling- good for librarians and those who coach children in storytelling contests. A handsome package.