cover image Imani in the Belly

Imani in the Belly

Deborah Newton Chocolate, Chocolate. Troll Communications, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8167-3466-5

Like the story of Jonah's voyage to the bottom of the whale's belly, Chocolate's (My First Kwanzaa Book) exuberant retelling of a Swahili folktale is an engrossing physical and spiritual adventure. Stricken with grief after her children are swallowed by Simba, ``the horrible King of Beasts,'' Imani is visited in a dream by her mother, who tells her to ``gather your faith and go after the beast.'' Imani, too, is swallowed, but helps her children and others escape by starting a fire in the Beast's belly. The behemoth disappears, ``and because [the villagers] believed in themselves and their power, the people became a great nation.'' Just as Imani's journey of self-discovery exemplifies faith and courage, this book may help readers find their own ``Imani''-the Kwanzaa principle of faith in oneself and one's ancestors. Debut illustrator Boies brings far-off Africa closer to home, too, with bright, dynamic cut-paper compositions of flora, fauna and people in traditional garb. She also does a singularly good job of incorporating text blocks into the illustrations. A striking work. Ages 5-9. (Oct.)