By Elizabeth Wroten
Kidlit Review: Ashley Bryan’s African Tales, Uh-Huh
On 25, Mar 2015 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
From GoodReads: Retold with rich, musical narration, and illustrated with Mr. Bryan’s distinctive paintings, these tales are full of fun and magic and a few lessons to be learned. They are tales of tricksters, chieftains, and both wise and foolish creatures. You will learn why Frog and Snake never play together, or why Bush Cow and Elephant are bad friends, or of the problems that a husband has because he likes to count spoonfuls. Although the stories come from many parts of Africa, they are full of the universal human spirit, to be shared and treasured for every generation, uh-huh.
African Tales is actually a compilation of three of Bryan’s collections of African tales. It’s one of those books that would be perfect for kids who are into reading folk tales. You know the ones, they check out all the different books of Greek, Roman and Egyptian myths and Aesop’s fables. Full disclosure, I was totally one of those kids. The reading level in this makes it maybe a bit more difficult (5th+) but younger audiences will also enjoy the tales.
Bryan’s writing style also make this an excellent read aloud. He’s really focused on retelling the stories in a way that tries to replicate the oral tradition of story telling. There has been a lot of research that says how important it is to read aloud to children until way past when they can read to themselves. (Jim Trelease argues that you should read aloud all the way through high school.) The combination of individual tales, the humor, and orality of the stories make this a perfect African Tales would be a great book to continue the tradition of reading aloud to your children.
Many of the stories are funny and a few have obvious morals or lessons in them, but, by and large, this is just a good collection of folk tales perfect for reading aloud.