Thursday, February 28, 2008

Book Review: A Story — A Story

It’s a story so good it had to be named twice. Or is it? Here is the story of a man who knows how to depend on his brains rather than brawn to win the favor of a god. Gail E. Haley “studied African folklore and culture … to capture the flavor of the languages, the people, their customs and life styles.” She did manage to relay this, but perhaps too much so. The unfamiliar African words could have used a pronunciation guide in the text or in a glossary. Even some of the English words (flamboyant, calabash) may be beyond the reach of the younger child for whom this book is intended (ages 4-8). This coupled with the almost babyish language elsewhere in the book (“Gum baby, I’ll slap your crying place.”) create an awkward juxtaposition. The intriguing shapes and vivid colors in the wood cut illustrations (made by the author herself) redeem the book, however, and justify the Caldecott Medal it was awarded in 1971.

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