Under the Baobab Tree

illus. by E.B. Lewis. Zonderkidz, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-310-72561-9

From the opening full-bleed, full-spread watercolor illustration of a young boy greeting the dawn in front of his grass-roofed hut with arms stretched wide toward heaven, to the final spread of a community gathered to praise God under a baobab tree’s encompassing branches, a spirit of quiet joy and wonder reverberates through this tale. As brother and sister Moyo and Japera walk dusty roads to the next village, they pass through their diverse community: weaverbirds in acacia trees, gazelle at a watering hole, a termite mound “rising from the tall grass like a finger pointing to heaven,” rendered by Lewis (Bat Boy and His Violin) as a vivid red natural sculpture decorating a brown, arid plain. Amid the children’s observations and musings, Stiegemeyer (Seven Little Bunnies) interweaves the refrain “But who will gather today under the baobab tree?” A preface page introduces the baobab tree, describing its practical and spiritual value to the African savanna’s human and animal communities. Understated lyricism combines with uncluttered, foreground-focused depictions of creation in this prose hymn of thanksgiving, prayer, and praise. Ages 4–7. (May)
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