cover image It Takes a Village

It Takes a Village

Jane Cowen-Fletcher. Scholastic, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-590-46573-1

Cowen-Fletcher ( Mama Zooms ), who served in the Peace Corps in Benin, West Africa, offers an affecting interpretation of a Benin proverb, ``It takes a village to raise a child.'' As a mother carries a tub of mangoes into the village to sell on market day, she asks her daughter Yemi to keep an eye on her younger brother, Kokou. The amiable girl readily agrees, and she proudly tells her mother's colleagues that she is old enough to watch him ``All by myself.'' The women smile and nod, ``but they knew better.'' Soon Yemi learns what they know so well: there are many watchful eyes on Kokou. When she turns her back to buy a bag of peanuts, Kokou wanders off. As a worried Yemi searches the marketplace for him, the illustrations--calm renderings in colored pencil with watercolor washes--show the boy being cared for by various vendors at the market. Reunited with Kokou, Yemi thanks each of them in turn. Cowen-Fletcher's simple narrative and quiet but detailed art provide a heartening portrait of a caring community, and an edifying glimpse of a culture unfamiliar to most American children. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)