Tales from the African Plains

Anne Gatti, Author, Gregory Alexander, Editor, Gregory Alexander, Illustrator Dutton Books $18.99 (96p) ISBN 978-0-525-45282-9
Culled by Alexander during his travels in Kenya, 12 folktales are given flowing colloquial retellings here. The artist's respect and appreciation for Kenyan culture is apparent in his stunning, mural-like paintings, which feature native people, wildlife and vegetation. Distinguished by blazing color and intricate patterns, the art conveys the action, symbolism and moral of each of these sprightly stories. Cooperation between humans and animals is a common thread in the narratives, as are themes of betrayal, bravery and the triumph of good over evil. Among the liveliest entries are ""The Poor Man's Reward,"" in which animals repay a traveler's kindness by helping him to win the hand of a princess; ""Why the Moon Comes Out at Night,"" an engaging explanation of how Sun earned the most important position in the sky; and ""Why Hyenas Don't Wear Jewelry,"" a witty expose of vanity and greed. While Gatti occasionally includes footnotes to define African words, very few terms will be unfamiliar to middle-grade readers, with the result that these stories are unusually easy to follow and absorb. All ages. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/30/1995
Release date: 02/01/1995
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