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Tololwa M. Mollel
Illustrated by Barbara Spurll
Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1994. 32pp,
paper, $17.95, ISBN 0-19-540990-6.
Distributed by General Distribution Services. CIP

Subject Headings:
Igbo (African people)-Folklore.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8

Reviewed by Catherine McInerney

Volume 22 Number 4
1994 September

This traditional tale from Nigeria features a lovable but arrogant tortoise trickster named Mbeku. When the birds of the forest receive an invitation to a feast in the sky, Mbeku not only crashes the party but also gets the birds to do all of the work in getting him there.

Unfortunately, although Mbeku impresses the people of the sky at the feast, his horrible manners cause the birds to plan his downfall. When the tortoise comes crashing down to earth, his ego is shattered along with his shell. The wise lizard Ngwele helps him to rebuild his life and to realize that there are advantages to not being "perfect" all the time.

The illustrations are delightfully tropical: the bright reds and greens and turquoises of the birds flash out of the lush jungle foliage. Text and pictures are bordered by a bead motif that sets them off elegantly. The main character is drawn as being sly and smug. There is humour in the drawings as well--in one scene the lizard uses a blueprint to help him rebuild the tortoise's shell while the tortoise sits around in a makeshift shell of leaves and string.

The author and illustrator have worked together before  (Rhinos for Lunch and Elephants for Supper!¹), and this book is another winner. A must-have for the folk-tale collection of any library.

Highly Recommended.

Catherine McInerney is a children's librarian with the St. Catherine's Public Library in St. Catharines, Ontario

¹ Reviewed vol.XX/1 January 1992, p.24.

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