KOI AND THE KOLA NUTS

An irrepressible youth turns a missed opportunity into good fortune in this frenetic retelling of an African folktale from Aardema (This for That, 1997, etc.). When his father, the chief of his people, dies, Koi is out hunting and so misses the division of property among his brothers (including the distribution of ivory tusks), leaving him with a lone kola tree as his inheritance. Undeterred, Koi sees this as a chance to explore the world. On his journey, he encounters several creatures who are in need of assistance: a snake with a sick mother, a frantic army of ants fleeing the Forest Devil, and a penitent crocodile facing the wrath of the Rainmaker, whose dog he ate. Koi’s kola nuts are always the answer to the desperate animals’ prayers. When he comes upon the realm of Chief Fulikolli, a ragged Koi accepts the challenge of winning the hand of the chief’s daughter and one half of his chiefdom. With the aid of the grateful creatures, Koi performs three seemingly impossible tasks. Laced with the liberal humor that is Aardema’s hallmark, Koi’s story and his sturdy spirit will draw readers in, as will the many uses of the kola nut and the lesson of doing good for others. In Cepeda’s vibrant illustrations, the Liberian landscape glistens and its people dance across the page, while the last scene—of Koi as a chief—is a portrait of ebullience rewarded. (glossary) (Picture book/folklore. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-689-81760-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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SNOW BEAR

In this sweetly sentimental story set in the frozen twilight of an Arctic spring, George (Morning, Noon, and Night, p. 699, etc.) tells of an Inuit girl who goes out to hunt. Bessie Nivyek sets out with her big brother, Vincent, to hunt for food; in a twist out of McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal, Bessie bumps into a young bear, and they frolic: climbing, sliding, somersaulting, and cuddling. Vincent spies the tracks of his little sister and follows, wary of the mother bear; the mother bear is just as wary of Vincent. Out of the water rears danger to both the child and cub—a huge male polar bear. The mother bear warns her cub; it runs away, as does Bessie. Brother and sister head back home, “to eat, go to school, and learn the wisdom of the Arctic like Eskimo children do.” The brief text is lyrical and the illustrations are striking, with an impressively varied palette of white, in blue, green, yellow, and gold. Children who note that Vincent goes home empty-handed will wonder why he didn’t hunt any of the polar bears that were within range. While children will enjoy this romantic view of Bessie and the bear, those seeking a more realistic representation of life in this harsh environment will be unsatisfied. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7868-0456-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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THE SINGING SNOWBEAR

Grigg complements her first story for children with soft-edged, cool-hued watercolors that powerfully evoke the white-bound north. This tale of the polar Snowbear opens with a call to adventure, the summons of the mythic hero. This is a song of such haunting beauty that the young bear must follow it to its source, and so he does, leaving his mother and setting off across the ice floes. “Maybe I can make those sounds and fill myself with songs,” he tells his mother, to which she lovingly growls in a guardian-at-the-gate manner, “Bears don’t sing.” The hero cycle, as Joseph Campbell delineated it, is followed nearly exactly, from the lyrical opening and through the unfolding of Snowbear’s journey. Snowbear struggles through challenges, as his path is wracked with not only loneliness and uncertainty, but also with very real physical and emotional pain. When he finally finds the singer, a whale, it is trapped in ice from which Snowbear must rescue him. Readers will be primed for something special; delivered, instead, is a ditty of a whale mother’s song in which the two new friends begin to harmonize. This awakens all the Arctic to a stomping, swaying response that lasts until dawn, but isn’t captured on the page; the expected sense of triumph in the hero’s return never emerges. After giving themselves up to a story with such glorious underpinnings, readers will be disappointed by the ending. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-94223-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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