cover image The Magic Bojabi Tree

The Magic Bojabi Tree

Dianne Hofmeyr, illus. by Piet Grobler. Frances Lincoln/Otter-Barry (PGW, dist.), $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-84780-295-8

Set long ago on a parched African plain, this folktale retelling follows five animals whose search for food leads them to a tree “covered in red, ripe fruit smelling of sweetest mangoes, fat as melons, juicy as pomegranates.” Unfortunately, “the largest python the animals had ever seen” is coiled around its trunk, and the snake won’t budge until the animals provide the correct name for the tree. Zebra sets off to get the answer from Lion, but forgets it on the return trip, as do Monkey and Elephant (for some reason, Giraffe doesn’t take a turn). Tortoise finally gets the job done, walking “carefully and slowly” on the way back and singing a mnemonic ditty (“Bojabi for you. Bojabi for me. What will bring down the fruit of the tree?”). Hofmeyr’s retelling bounds along with lively language and fun characterizations (especially the increasingly annoyed Lion), but it’s Grobler’s manic watercolors that truly provide the book’s energy. The vibrant red and green bojabi tree stands out like a beacon against the dusty African landscape, and his wily animal caricatures brim with personality. Ages 4–7. (Oct.)