cover image The Market Lady and the Mango Tree

The Market Lady and the Mango Tree

Pete Watson, Mary Watson. HarperCollins, $14 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-688-12970-5

With its memorable title character (inspired by a woman Pete Watson met while serving in the Peace Corps in West Africa) this exuberant tale, a first book by a husband-and-wife team, fits its jacket-flap description as an ``original fable.'' It is, indeed, a fresh, spunky tale with a timeless message, lyrically narrated and deftly illustrated with realistic, warmly hued paintings. Market Lady, sensing an opportunity for easy profits, attempts to defy custom (``Everyone knew that the law of the tree is that once they have fallen, mangoes are free''). After she fashions ``mango traps,'' the fruit drops right into her ample lap, allowing her a mango monopoly. With the money she makes from her ``poaching and plunder,'' the greedy merchant buys a Mercedes Benz, in which she transports her goods (now priced too high for mere marketgoers) to wealthy jellymakers at a rustic factory. After she has a dream about other plunderers--huge, ravenous hippos that raid her caravan and drive her into a muddy river--Market Lady sees the evil of her ways. The final page shows the reformed rogue surrounded by children, sharing not just her mangoes, but her sound advice: ``You can't earn a living by selling what's free.'' Ages 4-up. (Feb.)