cover image Subira Subira

Subira Subira

Tololwa M. Mollel. Clarion Books, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-91809-8

A Tanzanian girl discovers the all-important secret to getting along with her younger brother in this compelling adaptation of an African folktale. Following the death of their mother, Tatu must take on the responsibility of caring for Maulidi after school, while their father is still at work. Maulidi, obviously still grieving, disobeys and fights with his sister at every turn. Desperate, Tatu seeks advice from the spirit woman MaMzuka. MaMzuka promises that if Tatu can fetch three whiskers from a lion, she will have the power to change her brother's ways. Tatu soothes the lion with her beautiful singing voice and accomplishes the dangerous task. She also comes to understand that her singing--along with the same patience (the meaning of subira) and courage she showed the lion--will be just the remedy Maulidi needs. Mollel (The Orphan Boy) wondrously combines otherworldly flourishes and heartfelt emotion in a contemporary African setting. His storytelling unfolds seamlessly, inviting readers to join Tatu's thought-provoking quest. Saport's (All the Pretty Little Horses) rough-hewn pastels skillfully blend elements of mystery and everyday life in depictions of a spooky nighttime forest and glowing-eyed lion or of village children walking to school. Her luminous, almost electric indigos and golds suggest not only exotic climes but the magic of the text. Ages 5-9. (Jan.)