4 out of 4 stars
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Animal Village is a children's book written and illustrated by Nelda LaTeef. The author notes that the artwork “is done in acrylic, Indian ink and collage on art board.” I do not know what that means from a technical perspective, but from an observer’s standpoint, that phrase translates into gorgeous, bold, richly colorful scenes that transported me to the heart of West Africa, where the story unfolds.
When I received this book, I did not open it right away. I let it rest on top of my bookcase and admired the cover every time I passed by. Sensing the illustrations would be worth savoring, I did not want to rush into the story.
Chief Zamboha, the lion king, was helpless in the face of a drought that was ravaging the land of the Zarma. When he called a meeting of all the animals in the village to ask for ideas, the tortoise Timba was the only one who offered a suggestion. Her wisdom came from the “old stories” passed down from the elders, describing a solution that worked long ago. Will her solution work? Will the other animals trust advice from so long ago?
The author bookends the tale with information that enhances the story. At the beginning, interesting facts about the Sahara and Africa overall are listed beside a map of Africa with the countries in brilliant colors. After the story, the author shares she was inspired to write this book when she heard a narrative told by a griot, those in a village who are entrusted to pass down the “old stories.” The challenge presented in this book is also quite relevant to the sub-Saharan region, as drought is an ongoing issue in the area.
In the adventure, there are examples of setting aside one’s pride for the sake of others. There are also scenes highlighting the need for unity to survive. I admired Chief Zamboha. He was wise enough to ask for help when he could not come up with a solution to the drought. He knew the animals in his village well—both their strengths and weaknesses. And he knew when to lead and when to follow.
There was absolutely nothing I disliked about this read. I was motivated to learn more about Africa, and I was in awe of the quality of the illustrations. I felt totally immersed in the story.
It is my pleasure to rate Animal Village 4 out of 4 stars. It is an exceptionally well-edited and well-illustrated 28-page experience. The font is easy to read and does not distract from the full-page artwork. This book is recommended for ages 4 to 8, but readers would benefit from having an adult guide discussion around the educational elements surrounding the tale.
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