________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 10 . . . .January 20, 2006


True Friends: A Tale from Tanzania.

John Kilaka. Translated by Shelley Tanaka.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/ House of Anansi Press, 2006.
32 pp., cloth, $16.95.
ISBN 0-88899-698-5.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 3-6.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

*** /4

Reviewed from prepublication copy.



The next day, the other animals came to Rat’s house as usual to fetch the fire they needed to cook their breakfast. But Rat was nowhere to be found.

“Do you know where Rat is?” they asked Elephant. But he just shrugged and shook his head.

“Why would he disappear like that?” said Zebra. “Could someone have driven him away? If so, they had better watch out. Rat has a secret power- the power of fire. He could come back and burn down his enemy’s house.”


True Friends is the winner of the 2005 Bologna Ragazzi New Horizons Award. John Kilaka, who was born in Tanzania, is the author and illustrator of this picture book for children. True Friends is a traditional Tanzanian animal fable, as is John Kilaka’s book Fresh Fish.

     Rat is talented. He is the only animal who can create fire. The other animals depend on Rat to share the fire so they can cook their food. Rat is willing to share with the others, but Rat has a special place in his heart for Elephant, his best friend. These two friends couldn’t be more different though. We have hardworking rat who plans ahead for the winter by storing away grain. And then we have idle Elephant who just sits back and relaxes. He doesn’t prepare for the winter at all. Nevertheless, winter comes, and Elephant starts to worry about filling his big stomach. He convinces Rat to move his carefully stored away grain into Elephant’s own house. When Rat goes back to fetch his grain, he’s in for a shock. Elephant tells him to go away and leave him alone! Rat chooses to do just that. As the other animals wonder why Rat disappeared, Elephant begins to worry. Will Rat come back and burn down Elephant’s house? When Elephant asks for help from the other animals, they say he’s on his own. Taking matters into his own hands, Elephant gets hurt and has to go visit the hospital. Elephant comes out of the hospital on the mend and with a clear understanding of what he has to do now.

internal art     The illustrations in the book are quite striking. Readers will see different types of straw huts, various kinds of trees and shrubs, and the beautiful hues in the sky as the day turns into night. They even see the animals playing a traditional game made out of wood and stones. This is a story about trust, forgiveness and friendship. Children can appreciate what it means to be a true friend by witnessing what happens between Rat and Elephant.


Tanya Boudreau is a Youth Services Librarian and Resource Librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.

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

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