________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 11 . . . . February 1, 2002

cover What the Animals Were Waiting For.

Jonathan London. Illustrated by Paul Morin.
Markham, ON: North Winds Press, 2001.
32 pp., cloth, $19.99.
ISBN 0-439-98854-3.

Subject Headings:
Animals-Africa-Juvenile fiction.
Africa-Juvenile fiction.
Masai (African people)-Juvenile fiction.
Seasons-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Val Nielsen.




In the Mara River
hippos stay cool.
Crocodile eyes
rise, watch, and sink.
will come surging
across the river,
but not now. Now
is the time of waiting.

A young Maasai boy, hot and hungry, watches gazelles, zebras, hippos, wildebeests, elephants, even Simba the lion. All are quiet and still as they appear to be waiting.

animals at work

"What are they waiting for?" Tepi asks his grandmother.
"You shall see, Tepi. You shall see," she answers.

     Jonathan London's sparsely poetic prose tells a story of the dramatic cycle of seasons on the East African savannah. Through young Tepi's eyes, readers experience the hot still time at the end of period of draught, just before torrential rains burst upon the dry earth. Paul Morin, winner of the Governor General's award for Orphan Boy and The Dragon's Pearl, has created stunning paintings using mixed media (which includes grit, sticks and sawdust!) on canvas to illustrate London's text. The immensely talented Morin has also inserted a series of vignette photographs which appear on many pages, serving to underscore the lush paintings with realistic pictures of the African animals and landscape. Morin's authentic and detailed portrayal of Maasai life and art are a testament to the artist's knowledge of these African people.

     Author Jonathan London is a prolific writer of picture books whose interest in observing wildlife has found expression in several of his books, notably The Eyes of the Gray Wolf and Dream Weaver. London uses the second person, ("You are Maasai/You stand on one leg, like a stork in the sun/You are hot and your stomach growls") to give the reader Tepi's point of view in What the Animals Were Waiting For. Interspersed with description and dialogue, this unorthodox and unexpected use of "you"detracts somewhat from the flow of the text and may cause some confusion in a young listener. Despite this minor drawback, however, the brilliantly lush quality of Morin's paintings will draw readers of all ages to this beautiful picture book.

Highly Recommended.

Valerie Nielsen is a retired teacher-librarian who lives in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364