________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 5 . . . . November 3, 2000

cover African Tales from Tendai's Grandmother.

Lakshmi Mukundan.
Chennai, India: Tara Publishing (Distributed in Canada by The Banyan Tree, 2355 Fifth Lane West, Unit 46, Mississauga, ON, L5K 2M8), 1997.
64 pp., pbk., $11.99.
ISBN 81-86211-23-3.

Subject Headings:

Grades 3 - 6 / Ages 8 - 11.

Review by Joan Payzant.

*** /4


One morning, Tendai and Grandmother woke up very early and collected big white mushrooms from the forest on the hills nearby. They went to sit beside the highway and waited for people to stop and buy the tasty wild mushrooms.

Grandmother knew that Tendai often went off by himself, to watch the different vehicles that sped up and down the highway. She was worried that he might be tempted to cross and look at something on the other side of the broad road. Even a new kind of bird or butterfly was enough to make him forget everything else. She often warned him to stay out of the way of the speeding traffic. He could get run over if he was not careful.

As they sat there, near the highway, she remembered a story her own grandfather had told her many years ago. She decided to tell Tendai this story.

image Lakshmi Mukundan has some fascinating stories to tell her seven-year-old grandson, Tendai. Five of them are included in this book which is illustrated in black and white in a unique style rather like wood cuts. The book's end papers show a map of Africa and, facing it, an enlarged map of Zimbabwe which locates Tendai's village. An excellent glossary and pronunciation guide are found at the book's conclusion.
    Chapters, like the "excerpt" above, alternate with Grandmother's tales, each of which has a moral wrapped in an exciting adventure story. There are six such cautionary tales, rather like Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories." They are titled:
  • How the Weaver Bird Began to Weave
  • Why Cheetah Never Hides His Claws
  • Young Impala and the Hippopotamus
  • Young Crocodile and the Great Waterfall
  • The Scaly Anteater and the Dassie
African Tales was published in India on cream-coloured firm paper. The drawings are well reproduced, and the type is suitable for children. But it is frustrating that the binding is poor, and that must be a great disappointment to the writer/illustrator. The new copy I received is coming apart already. Otherwise, it is an unusual and worthwhile book which blends descriptions of daily life in Africa with stimulating tales of its native bird and animal life. Younger children would love to have it read to them at bedtime.


Joan Payzant is a former teacher-librarian in Dartmouth, NS.

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ISSN 1201-9364