The Best Beekeeper of Lalibela: A Tale from Africa
Cristina Kessler. Holiday House, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1858-9
Kessler (My Great-Grandmother's Gourd) sets this somewhat sleepy if inspirational story in the mountains of Ethiopia, where young Almaz visits Lalibela's open-air market each week, tasting the honey sold by local beekeepers. As the girl ""let the honey drip down her finger like a string of golden diamonds and into her mouth,"" she tells herself that one day her honey ""will be the best."" When she announces her honey-making aspirations to a group of male beekeepers, they dismiss her dreams, insisting that theirs is ""men's work."" They advise her to learn the tasks performed by her mother (""You have a lot of work of your own, so forget bees""). A kind, wise priest refutes their claim, encouraging her to ""make the world's sweetest honey. Man, woman, girl, boy is not important. So keep bees."" When one of the skeptical beekeepers tells Almaz to climb a tree to fetch a beehive, her apparent fear of heights deters her, but not for long. The girl soon finds a way around this problem, and the men who chided her later proclaim her ""the best beekeeper of Lalibela."" A concluding author's note recounts the intriguing legend surrounding Lalibela's beekeeping history. The lukewarm narrative gets a big boost from Jenkins's (A Good Night for Freedom) richly hued, creatively textured artwork, evoking the lush landscape and exotic dress of the characters. Ages 4-8.
Reviewed on: 04/03/2006