3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
The Talking Baobab Tree, written and illustrated by Nelda LaTeef, is an engaging children’s picture book. Derived from a story heard in the Wolof Village of Dakar, Senegal, it sits right at home on the list of memorable fables.
The tale kicks off with Johari, a female rabbit, ending up lost in the desert. After wandering around, she eventually winds up at the trunk of the largest tree she has ever seen, falling deeply asleep in its shade. Johari is awoken by its voice and is very surprised to be speaking to a tree – a baobab tree. Impressed by its size and wisdom, Johari receives a reward for her struggles, one which she brings back to her burrow. This doesn’t come without its own problems, for a neighbour casts greedy eyes on her treasure. Forced to reveal the location of the tree, Johari must outwit her neighbour to be safe from his greed.
I liked so many things about this book. It took one of my favourite children’s book trope – talking insentient objects – and ran with it all the way to the finish line. We learn some useful details about the baobab tree, also called the Tree of Life, the largest tree in Africa. I liked how it takes the popular belief that old, large creatures go hand in hand with wisdom and knowledge (looking at you, elephants), although I suppose owls and ants might have a word or two to counter this theory.
As mentioned earlier, this story is recounted in a fable-like manner. As such, there are important lessons imparted along the way. The moral is that greed leads to the ruination of self, backed by more subtle lessons, such heeding warnings and instructions, knowing everything about a situation before getting involved, and being discerning about who you trust and what information you disclose.
I did dislike one feature of The Talking Baobab Tree. On some pages – I suppose, to reduce interference with the illustrations – the text is oriented in the vertical direction. My neck raised a ruckus in complaint, so naturally, I must point out this issue. Apart from this, I did notice seven errors, which, when placed against the short, twenty-three pages of content, do seem noteworthy. I do believe this book may have been edited, though perhaps not thoroughly so.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. The number of grammatical mistakes and the slight difficulty regarding reading some pages were the only negative aspects of this book. Because of these, I think a one-star deduction is fair. For those parents searching for a meaningful naptime read for their little ones, this book would be a good fit. I do not recommend this book to people who do not prefer fables to longer reads.
The Talking Baobab Tree
View: on Bookshelves