cover image Flying Tortise CL

Flying Tortise CL

Tololwa M. Mollel. Clarion Books, $14.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-395-68845-8

``Long, long ago, Mbeku the tortoise had a magnificent shell. It was so smooth and clear and shiny, it even glowed in the dark.'' This affable Nigerian folktale explains how the tortoise lost the sheen of his shell through his chicanery and greed. Mbeku tricks the birds into bringing him to Skyland, where he cheats them out of a feast. Enraged, they tear off his rigged-up wings and he must jump down to earth-and the birds continue to foil Mbeku when they have the lizard Ngwele build a pile of hard things for Mbeku to land on. Ngwele later mends Mbeku's shattered carapace, but its splotchy surface causes an embarrassed Mbeku to hide in his shell, a habit he retains to this day. Although Mbeku is a fine example of how not to behave, he is lovable as the smirky protagonist. Spurll, last paired with Mollel in Rhinos for Lunch and Elephants for Supper!, watercolors with a jungle-bright palette. She loads her compositions with uncommonly expressive animal characters, seen from comic angles, and, for additional atmoshere, she frames her work in beadwork-like borders. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)