From School Library Journal
Grade 4–8—After spending his first four years in an African city, the author's parents sent him to live with his grandparents in a small Malian village. Grandma Sabou was a respected herbalist and healer with a gift for storytelling. Grandpa Samba owned a mango plantation and was one of the few men in his village who knew how to cook. Together, they schooled DiakitÃ© in catching catfish, cultivating crops, and coexisting peacefully with nature, all the while instilling in him their virtues and values. When Grandma Sabou finally decided he was "educated," she acquiesced to his request for more formal schooling where he channeled his childhood experiences into a career as an artist. DiakitÃ©'s story is poignant and well written, and his reverence for his homeland is apparent. The accompanying colorful illustrations, created on earthenware tiles, are beautifully rendered, and the seamlessly interwoven ancestral fables lend authenticity to his story.—Kelly McGorray, Glenbard South High School, Glen Ellyn, IL
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In his memoir of growing up in a village in Mali, West Africa, well-known storyteller and artist Diakité weaves in the folklore and lessons he learned as a child with his personal biography. The illustrations, printed from earthenware tiles, capture the blend of myth and tradition as well as personal interactions with people and nature. The messages get heavy at times for a young audience, as when Diakité explains how folktales are “like narrative versions of metaphors or proverbs.” But many people will be held by how, at age four, Diakité's city parents send him to his father's home village to be raised by his wise, loving grandmother, where he listens to her fireside stories (“nighttime was beautiful” with no electricity or light), herds sheep and goats, feels the effects of French colonialism, and learns to blend cultural traditions and his own sense of self. Finally, he marries and moves between the U.S. and Mali. Suggest this to adult storytellers as well as to young people. Grades 6-10. --Hazel Rochman