Picture Books

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Mwansa, Bupe A.

Cibemba ABC

Illustrated by Moses Shiku. Zambian Language series. Lusaka, Zambia: Bookworld, 1997. No pag. ISBN 9982-24-005-6.

Ages 1–5.

This delightful little book introduces toddlers and young children to the alphabet in a culturally relevant setting, taking examples of objects found in the Zambian environment.

The interactive element is strong in this book. Clear black-and-white illustrations with simple lines and plenty of white space allow for coloring, thus inviting children to personalize each page. Each word is written twice, with the second version of the word designed specifically for the child to trace. The illustrations depict the text so clearly and accurately that even children and parents who do not speak Cibemba will be able to decode meanings easily and match each picture to the letter of the alphabet and the sound it represents. For example:


A is for anyense (onion), pronounced “anyense”; and amabwe (rocks), pronounced “amabwe”

B is for bowa (mushroom), pronounced “bowa”; and the more familiar botolo (bottle), pronounced “botolo” (No pag.)

While the basic Cibemba alphabet follows the standard Latin alphabet, it has only twenty-two letters, five of which are the vowels a, e, i, o, u. Some letters familiar to English speakers – such as g, q, r, v, and x – are not part of the Cibemba alphabet. A Cibemba character that may be unfamiliar to English speakers is “?,” which comes after the letter “f” in the Cibemba alphabet, and is pronounced “ng” as in the word “thing.” While in English this sound is likely to occur on the last syllable, in Cibemba it is more likely to occur in the beginning or middle syllable of a word. For example, “?” is for ?oma (drum; pronounced “ngoma”), and ?anda (house; pronounced “nganda”) (no pag.).

Preschool and kindergarten teachers who wish to expose their students to world cultures and languages will find that the simple, concrete examples in this book are very useful.

Picture Books


Bookworld Publishers Limited