________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 12. . . .November 20, 2009


Osemo: The Rainbow Zebra.

K.E. Olsen.
Regina, SK: Compass Publishing, 2009.
32 pp., pbk, $12.95.
ISBN 978-0-9811635-1-2.

Subject Headings:
Zebras-Juvenile fiction.
Serengeti Plain (Tanzania)-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Suzanne Pierson.

***1/2 /4



The morning fog lifted on the endless plains of the Serengeti, as a very special baby zebra was born into this world.

His mother had been waiting patiently for him for more than a year – 390 days. While she waited, she thought of many names for him, but only one seemed to fit. When he was born, she called him Osemo, the Masaï word for “rainbow”.

If the only reason that you buy this book is to support the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF), it will be money well spent. (A portion of the proceeds from the sales of this book go to SLF to support the community-based organizations that are turning the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa by providing care and support to women, grandmothers, orphans and people living with HIV and AIDS.)

internal art      The good news, however, is that this is a lovely story which will educate the reader about the early life of the Burchell’s zebra. Born on the southern plains of Tanzania, Osemo learns to identify his mother’s distinctive pattern of stripes as he grazes on the grasslands during the annual migration of the herd west and north following the rain pattern.

     Osemo, a Masai word meaning rainbow, gradually displays his difference through the subtle colours that begin to appear on his coat. Being different is not without its costs, as Osemo learns when the other young zebras taunt him. Less visible, but more important, is Osemo’s unique ability to detect water. Using this talent, Osemo leads the herd from water hole to water hole during their long migration from the southern plains of Tanzania, west and then north into Kenya.

     Carefully woven into this story are many factual details. At the end of the book are three pages of “Facts about zebras” and a map showing the migration route.

     Beautifully illustrated in mixed media by the author, all of the drawings are done with Berol Prismacolor pencils and pen and ink. The wood grain from the illustrator’s work table, a reclaimed wooden door mounted on a quilting frame, gives many of the drawings their texture. Three of the illustrations, the laughing zebras, Osemo in the river and the map at the back of the book, were done with water colours, pencil crayons and black fine tipped markers. Tea was used to give the map its sienna colour, and Crayola markers were used to outline the borders and the bodies of water.

     The layout of the book is also very attractive. The left-hand page is usually a colourful illustration supporting the storyline. The right-hand page contains the text in two sections – a black on white main section which begins the story, and a coloured sidebar portion which continues the story.

     Enjoy the story, the illustrations, the research material, and the fact that your purchase is supporting a worthy cause.

Highly Recommended.

Suzanne Pierson is a retired teacher-librarian, currently instructing librarianship courses at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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