2 out of 4 stars
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The Talking Baobab Tree by Nelda Lateef is a short children’s book based off of a Senegalese folk tale. In this story, a rabbit receives a gift from a magical baobab tree. This gift, however, causes the rabbit to encounter a dangerous situation and she has to outwit a villainous hyena. The plot is reminiscent of Aladdin and the Cave of Wonders.
Since this story is based on a traditional African story, it provides a look into another culture that readers may not be familiar with. Both children and adults can learn about the baobab tree and its place in African culture. I also have to commend Nelda Lateef for both writing and illustrating the book herself.
Despite its cultural references, however, I found there to be a few issues with this book. For one thing, the writing has an overabundance of commas that often feel misplaced, causing the mental narration of the book to be clunky and awkward. There are also a ton of proverbs that the writer uses that just sound strange. These proverbs are interesting because they are obviously from a different culture, but something gets lost in translation. I found myself questioning why one would beware somebody with a bare neck. Lastly, the illustrations are cute but the typography and layout of the book itself needs a lot of work. Many readers may not care about this, but it is something I personally cannot ignore.
I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars. It has unique cultural references but the story is lacking in original concept, the writing style is clunky, and the usage of proverbs might confuse the reader.
I recommend this book to young children. While there are plenty of other stories with a similar concept, it is still a decent cautionary tale. Children can learn about being kind, avoiding greed, experience a little bit of culture and even a couple foreign words.
The Talking Baobab Tree
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