Picture Books

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Mwansa, Bupe A.

Nkalamo, Cimbwi na Mbwa baalomba ifyo baalulilwe

Lion, Hyena and Dog Ask for Changes

Illustrated by Gabriel Ellison. Zambian Language Series.
Lusaka, Zambia: Bookworld, 1997. 24 p. ISBN 9982-24-009-9. Ages 3-7.

Language: Cibemba

Publisher: Bookworld Publishers Limited

This humorous adaptation of an African folktale has a surprise hero. The author acknowledges that when he was growing up Mama Kaunda, wife of the first president of Zambia, often told this story to children in the form of a song. The story embodies a fundamental African principle: While nature is subject to man, he is charged with maintaining the balance between other creatures’ needs and his own. If he looks toward nature for answers, he will succeed in coexisting peacefully with all creatures.

Lion, Hyena, and Dog embark on a journey to the medicine man’s (?anga’s) house. After many days of travel across rivers and through villages, they arrive tired and hungry. Each one prostrates himself in the customary manner and asks the medicine man to grant him a wish: the lion wants many children, the hyena wants to be stronger, and the dog wants to be taller. Katyetye, the wise swallow, who accompanied them on their journey, has had a chance to observe their characters and learn of their motives. He now speaks his mind in front of the gathering, and warns the medicine man that if he grants the lion many children, they will outnumber and eat up all the people. Similarly, if the hyena gets stronger than man, he will attack him; and if the dog gets taller, he will be able to reach over fences and windows to steal even more food. Impressed by the swallow’s wisdom and thoughtfulness, the medicine man decides not to grant the wishes of the three, who go away disappointed. As a reward for his good advice, the swallow is appointed to a high position in the village. To this day, he can be seen living peacefully among people as a highly respected member of the village – and no village is complete without Katyetye.

The large type and effective use of white space make this an accessible book for beginning independent readers. Also important for beginning readers is an average of four to six words per sentence, and plenty of white space between words. Humour contributes to an enjoyable exploration of African folklore. The black-and-white illustrations provide an accurate portrayal of the traditional savannah setting and of village life.


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