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4.7 out of 5 stars
Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions (Picture Puffin Books (Pb))
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Ho hum, thought I when I first saw this book. Yet another African alphabet book. It wasn't too long ago that I read, "Jambo Means Hello", the Swahili alphabet book by Muriel Feelings that was published in 1974. That book was okay, but I was disappointed that it didn't distinguish between tribes or acknowledge the advance of technology in Africa in the 1970s. Then I picked up this 1976 Caldecott winning book and upon reading it I was stunned. This book is everything that "Jambo Mean Hello" SHOULD have been. With meticulously researched information, delicate details, and stunning illustrations this book deserves to be read to every single child in elementary school for as long as there are either children or schools.

The book goes through the alphabet by naming a different tribe for each letter. First of all, I was surprised that there actually was an African tribe for every letter in the alphabet. Shows what I know. As we view each tribe we get a stunning illustration of their clothing, towns or villages, and activities. Author Margaret Musgrove describes their life, picking out the most interesting details for each. Through this method we learn that in Baule legend the crocodiles aided them when they were at war with the Ashanti. Or we find out that in the Tuareg tribe the men are veiled and the women do most of the talking, storytelling, and poetry. From A to Z we see a wide spectrum of African inhabitants, ending with a map of Africa that shows where each tribe resides.

But it doesn't stop there. Feelings explains in her Author's Note in the front that modern technology is changing the face of African life, though she contends that the traditions pictured in this book are still being passed on from generation to generation. She points out that some customs mentioned here are unique and relate only to that particular tribe while other values and philosophies are shared by all. She is even so careful as to point out that many (not all) African language prefixes are added to denote the plural. She, however, has used the root words throughout the book for simplicity's sake. Should you have any doubts about the background of this author, you can read in a tiny note on the publication page that she lived and studied in Ghana for years and a list of publications consulted is included. And if you've any doubts about the illustrations, don't. As noted, even the interwoven designs at the corners of the pages are based on Kano Knots. Every article of clothing, every animal, every home depicted here is accurate and beautiful.

I don't mean to pooh-pooh "Jambo Means Hello", but that book hasn't got anything on the amazing "Ashanti to Zulu". It's stunning.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"Ashanti to Zulu" presents 26 African tribes, from A to Z, and lets children learn something about the culture and customs of each one. Aside from being a learning experience, the book is visually eye-popping; the illustrations are so gorgeous you'll want to blow them up and frame them. The book won a well-deserved Caldecott Medal for the best illustrated children's book of 1977. It's a great book for helping children to learn about some of the peoples of our least-known populated continent, and the pictures will hold the kids mesmerized. It's a volume that belongs on every youngsters bookshelf.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions is one of the most beautiful children's books ever published. It is a unique ABC book in which every letter represents an African tribe. The traditions of each tribe are described in clear text and illustrated with a picture that shows the people, clothing, crafts, type of house, animals and vegetation of the particular tribe. But nothing about this book is pedantic or boring. The text is well researched and each illustration is a unique design. No wonder it won the Caldecott medal for distinguished illustration in 1977 and is still a favorite around the world. So what's my beef? The Picture Puffin edition is cheap and ugly. The cover picture is a ghastly red blur and the inside illustrations are equally distorted in color. It's an insult to the creators. Puffin press should be embarrassed! I was shocked when I saw it and promptly returned it. Do yourself a favor and buy the original 1976 edition (also available on Amazon). It's just a few bucks more and well worth every penny. It's cocktail-table worthy and will be enjoyed by adults perhaps even more than by children.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
An A-to-Z alphabet book for children in which the examples for the letters are twenty-six different tribes in Africa, exhibiting some of their varied traditions and customs. Hence, children learn of other peoples. It was illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon and it won the 1977 Caldecott Medal for best illustration in a book for children.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is an amazing book, practically one of a kind! The information, illustions, and luster of the indigenous African cultures is beautiful to behold. I recommed introducing young children to cultures and peoples as varied as the come to fully portray to them the true beauty of this creation, life. There is nothing so intricate, so inveloping and powerful as life in this form. Pronounciation is given for the tribes names to bring ease of reading, which is, in fact, very enjoyable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a book that describes different African tribes from each letter of the alphabet. This is a great way to teach children about African tribes, and the book also pronounces each tribe so it is easier to read. The illustrations are wonderful and full of detail. This would be a great lesson in the classroom to learn about Africa. It would also be great to use each page as a poster or transparency.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Musgrove uses the alphabet book concept to showcase 26 traditional African cultures. For each one, she explains a custom about that culture in one paragraph. Each entry emphasize the variety in the cultures she has chosen. There is no particular rhythm to the prose, she does not use rhyme or repetition, and for that reason it is not an exciting book to read aloud.

For each culture represented, the Dillons illustrated a detailed, realistic family or community scene. Each scene is framed with the same knot design, and each contains a male, female, and child of that particular people, as well a depiction of their home and fauna native to their part of Africa. Despite this planned similarity, each scene is unique. The Dillons depict each tribe with varying skin tones and facial features, use a wide variety of colors and patterns and apparently did extensive research to make each scene accurate. Though they have attempted to be realistic, their style is also traditional, reminiscent of a fairy tale book, with soft lines, gentle shading and muted colors. In addition, the perspective is somewhat stylized, adding a folk art feel. Their illustrations combine well with Musgrove's writing, as they both work together to bring out the beauty and mystique of a culture foreign to most readers.

It is intended for the standard picture book age*, and may not be appropriate. Preschoolers may not be mature enough to understand or be interested in other cultures yet, though these illustrations could be enticing enough to make them want the book read aloud. Many of the terms will be too advanced for early readers, making this one that will need to be read with an adult for the majority of those in the intended age range.

*note: I have since found out that Amazon has this rated for the wrong age group; according to the Children's Literature Comprehensive Database it is intended for grades 4-5.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: School & Library Binding
If you dig into the children's books in any public or school library, even those of modest means, you will encounter dozens; at times hundreds, of alphabet books. These books come in all sizes, shapes, themes, and difficulty levels. Some are quite good, some are so-so, and some are absolutely horrid,and to he honest, pathetic.

I have a special category for some of these alphabet books though. They are the ones that go beyond the mere "quite good" category and hold a special place. I am please to report that Ashanti to Zulu, African Traditions, by Margaret Musgrove and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon make the cut and in fact is in a rare realm of works that simply do not get better! I was actually shocked, amazed and absolutely delighted when I stumbled across this one. Now let me make one point clear here; this is indeed an alphabet book, but it is also a book that any adult with one ounce of curiosity and appreciation for quality can also enjoy.

Now that being said....

This work covers the alphabet, A through Z using African Tribes. The author starts with Ashanti then proceeds to Baule, Chagga, Dogon, Ewe, Fanti, Ga and so on, until the book ends with Zulu. Each tribe has its own page which is beautifully illustrated (more about that later) and a tremendous amount of information packed into one short paragraph. The writing style can best be illustrated through a direct quote from one of the pages (selected at complete random), such as the page devoted to "S" or to the Sotho:

"S/When a Sotho (soo'-too) girl marries; she does not carry a bouquet of flowers. She holds a magic beaded doll. The doll has no arms or legs, but it does have earrings. Its body is a bright beaded cone. It is Sotho custom for the bride to name the doll. Later, when she has her first baby, she gives this same name to her child"

Nice facts about each group are delightfully presented in a manner that the young can well understand, yet gives both the young reader and the adult fascinating information.

The author has done an extensive amount of research (many years of work has gone into this one) and the two artists have furthered and enhanced that research in so many ways.

As to the art work: This is truly as valuable, and in many ways more so, than the text. Each picture has been done in watercolors, acrylics and pastels. The artists have tried in each case to represent male, female and child in their traditional dress. The work here is extremely detailed and authentic. Clothing, jewelry, and décor have all been addressed in loving detail. The settings of each plate include village s life, local flora and wildlife in addition to tools and household items. Leo and Diane Dillon are two of the best in the business and with this offering they have outdone even themselves.

Note: The author has assured us that in spite of the modern technology that is changing he direction of African life, that the old ways linger and that the traditions of the passed are being passed down and are being respected and practiced. It is my own feelings that the author is being overly optimistic in this area and has underestimated the lure of "progress." I fear that other than museums, old photographs and works such as this, we will soon not see the like as we are shown here. This work was published in 1976 and in the short span of only 30 or so years already so much has been lost that will never be recovered; forgotten and will never be seen again.

Don Blankenship
The Ozarks
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
This book is as beautifully illustrated by Diane & Leo Dillon as it is well written by Margaret Musgrove, and the Caldecott Award committee only did what it had to: acknowledge a hands-down winner, a book for the ages. Westerners particularly will find their eyes opened, even today, to the range and depth of Africa - a great and beautiful aid in helping children appreciate - and adults to remember - the array of cultural diversity in a poorly understood continent. The alphabet is presented in order, of course, but this is way more than your rote A-B-C primer... get it in hardcover if you can, or paperback if you can't, but get it! Gift-shoppers, get extra copies for yourselves - you'll be very glad you did!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
My brother & I received this book when we were children in 1980 from our parents. It's one of my favorite childhood books & I still have the same copy. It's a great way to introduce African culture to not only African American children, but all children who yearn to learn about other cultures.
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