Volume II Number 1
October 20, 1995

image Big Boy.

Tololwa M. Mollel. Illustrated by E.B. Lewis.
Toronto: Stoddart, 1995. 32pp, cloth, $18.95
ISBN 0-7737-28511.

Subject Headings:

Preschool - grade 3 / Ages 4 - 8.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.


Oli didn't want to eat his ugali. He didn't want to take his nap. He wanted to go bird hunting in the woods with his big brother Mbachu. His mama said no.
"You are too little," she told him.

image So begins the tale of Oli, a little boy in Tanzania who yearns to be big and go on adventures. The story is based on a motif found in African folklore, but the setting is contemporary. It is yet another beautifully told tale by Tololwa M. Mollel, author of the haunting book The Orphan Boy, as well as Rhinos for Lunch and Elephants for Supper, and The Hare and the Tortoise.

When Oli steals out of the house and encounters the magical bird Tunukia-zawadi, he is frightened but mesmerized. Tunukia-zawadi grants Oli's wish to be big as a mountain and strong as the wind, and he immediately goes out into the world to flaunt his new-found prowess. But his giant size is out of tune with his environment, and he causes disruption for people, animals, and nature. Then all he wants is to return to being what he was, and when this wish is granted he returns safely home to the arms of his loving family.


Oli gets to experience every child's dream -- of being bigger and somehow superior to everyone else, if only for a while. The shattering of his illusions makes him realize that he has to grow up emotionally and physically to be able to handle the responsibilities that come with size, and that the stages of life cannot be rushed. He comes to appreciate and miss the safety, warmth, and guidance that a family can provide.

The book is sprinkled with words in Kiswahili , Tanzania's national language, and a glossary of terms at the back explains their meaning. The use of Kiswahili adds authenticity to the story, as do the illustrations by painter E.B. Lewis. Lewis's work captures the earth-tone beauty of the country, the life of the villages and the animals, and the detail of the main characters.

This book will be a welcome addition to every story collection.


Highly Recommended.

Harriet Zaidman is a Winnipeg teacher/librarian..

Copyright © 1995 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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