3 out of 4 stars
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The Talking Baobab Tree is a children's book is about a rabbit named Johari, a baobab tree and a hyena. This story begins with Johari having traveled too far from her home and lost in the desert. Just as fatigue, hunger and thirst start to overwhelm Johari she finds the strength to climb one more towering mountain of sand and sees the baobab tree. Exhausted she tumbles down the mountain of sand towards the tree and is startled when the tree speaks to her. This tree gives life to many species in the barren desert and Johari is no exception. The tree provides her with not only food and shade, but also kindness and a gift before sending Johari home with a warning to never seek the tree out again. When Johari returns home she is ambushed by her nosy neighbor the hyena who traps Johari in her home to extort information regarding where Johari got her new necklace from. Again plagued by thirst and hunger, Johari eventually gives in and begrudgingly agrees to show the hyena where the generous baobab tree resides. But, Johari does not tell the hyena everything about the tree.
I rate The Talking Baobab Tree by Nelda LaTeef 3 out of 4 stars. I highly suggest reading this story not only for the heartwarming tale, but also for the life lessons woven into the storyline. The author did a wonderful job of integrating fairly adult concepts such as respect, greed, trust and generosity into an engaging story easily followed by children without watering down the messages at all. The author is also able to expertly expose children to a new environment and culture even including two words from the local language. I wish the author had included the country the desert is part of and the name of the local language in the story. It is present in the authors note, but most children are unlikely to read the authors note. Had this story included the country it takes place in, the name of the local language and one or two elements of the local culture in the story itself I would have given this story 4 out of 4 stars. I did not feel the book deserved a rating as low as 2 out of 4 stars because the story is well written, engaging and feels professionally edited. The graphics along with the story also add to the reading experience in a very positive manner by helping the characters and setting come to life.
Johari did not want to return to the baobab tree because she respected the tree and was not tempted by the greed displayed by the hyena. The hyena displays other less than desirable traits like manipulation and bullying when forcing Johari to return to the baobab tree. The children are able to see the repercussions of both positive and negative character traits in this story. This will help the children decide how to treat those they come in contact with their entire lives.
My favorite element of this book is how resourceful and pure hearted Johari is. My least favorite element of this book the lack of explanation of geography and language. I wish the author had expressly defined the local words the baobab tree uses when speaking to Johari. The definitions of these two words are implied by the trees actions to Johari's dialogue, but children may benefit from an explicit translation written into the story or a glossary at the end of the story.
I believe all children will enjoy this cute and engaging story. I also believe it is a story parents and grandparents will enjoy reading to their children and grandchildren. I feel middle and high school aged children may be bored by this book as it is at the reading level of younger children. This book could also be a good fit for elementary school teachers to use in the classroom to start discussions about life lessons and different cultures.
The Talking Baobab Tree
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