cover image My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me

My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me

Maya Angelou. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-517-59667-8

The poet laureate here adopts the voice of an eight-year-old Ndebele girl of South Africa, who addresses the reader as her ``stranger-friend.'' Thandi, whose name means Hope, describes some of her favorite things: the chicken to whom she confides her secrets, the intricately painted houses in her village, the beads her mother strings. Thandi's narration is strong and direct, and provides a lively introduction to a long-neglected people and culture. Its attempts to embrace the reader, however, seem somewhat strained (``You may call me friend, and I would like to call you friend''), and the use of many sizes and arrangements of type creates some choppiness. The accompanying photographs, on the other hand, do full justice to the brilliant colors of the beadwork, blankets and decorated houses of Thandi's village, and to the various attitudes of the carefully adorned people in it. Regrettably, they offer no more than a glimpse of the landscape nor any larger view of the village as a whole, thus inadvertently narrowing the book's scope. Ages 6-10. (Oct.)