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Sense Pass King: A Story from Cameroon Hardcover – October 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 3-In this retelling of a traditional tale, young Ma'antah displays such extraordinary cleverness that she earns the nickname, Sense Pass King. The jealous monarch makes repeated attempts to dispose of the child, but ultimately brings her to live in his palace. When he falsely takes credit for slaying a seven-headed sea lizard and saving his future bride, feats accomplished by the pint-sized servant, the villagers have had enough of his dishonesty and cowardice. They drive him out of the kingdom, crown Sense Pass King queen, and all live happily ever after. Children will delight in the youngster's ability to outsmart grown-ups and find her way out of seemingly impossible predicaments. Expansive spreads of lush acrylic artwork are filled with humorous and, at times, magical details. In the final scene, Queen Ma'antah rubs the head of a panther with a snake perched on its back, while a curious audience of lizards, monkeys, and people look on in wonder. Such fantastic images and a clever story line make this a satisfying addition to folklore collections.
Ajokei T. I. Kokodoko, Oakland Public Library, CA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

PreS.-Gr. 2. A wise, brave child outwits the silly powerful king in this lively West African folktale. Tchana first heard the story from her husband, who heard it when he was growing up in Cameroon. In the original, the child is a boy, but Tchana makes her a girl. Ma'antah is a prodigy, who, from the age of two, can speak the languages of all seven villages and communicate with animals. Soon the people call her Sense Pass King because she is cleverer even than their ruler. He tries to destroy her, but she escapes all his traps, and eventually the people drive him away, make Ma'antah their leader, and live in peace and prosperity. The triumph of the small, smart hero over stupid authority has elemental child appeal, and Hyman's sunlit acrylic double-paged paintings capture the traditional village setting and the individual people in clear, glowing detail. Always at the center is the proud, sturdy girl, who confronts a seven-headed fiery monster with the same wit and courage that she uses to defeat the jealous despot. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 and up
  • Grade Level: Preschool and up
  • Lexile Measure: 510L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Holiday House; First edition (October 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823415775
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823415779
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 10.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,210,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By K. Wilson on July 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Sense Pass King is a traditional West African folk tale. It tells the story of Ma'antah, a brilliant child who the villagers call "Sense Pass King" because she has more sense than even the king. The king learns of this and becomes angry. He devises many plans to have Ma'antah killed, but she keeps outwitting him. Eventually, the villagers drive the king out of the village and make Ma'antah their queen. An author's note on the last page explains that in the traditional tale, Sense Pass King is a little boy. The author chose to make Sense Pass King a girl in this retelling because there are not enough stories about brave and clever girls.

I would recommend this book for children ages 6 through 9. Children in this age group who are beginning to assert themselves will enjoy reading about Ma'antah outwitting the king. They are also developing a sense of right and wrong and will be happy that the book's ending is just. I would use this book as part of a storytime program with other books of African folk tales. The beautiful acrylic paintings

add to the text by showing children detailed images of a traditional West African village, such as straw huts, animals, and traditional dress and jewelry.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Pharoah S. Wail VINE VOICE on July 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Last year around Christmas I saw this in the bookstore and had to get it. I love the illustrations. At that moment in the store I didn't have time to read it but after seeing the illustrations I couldn't put it down. The pictures in this book are incredible. I have always been somewhat bothered that this particular picture was chosen for the cover. It's the single worst picture in (or on) the book so please do not base your opinion on the cover illustration. They did not make kids books like this when I was a kid!

If memory serves, I have never reviewed a book on this site before, so this is as good a place to start as any.

I don't have any kids but maybe I will someday. I am disturbed by the fact that it is very rare to ever see a white child playing with, say, a black doll. Obviously this is not the fault of the child. Non-white American children have had to make do with white stories and dolls for generations, until fairly recently.

I think that the sooner a child is exposed to the beautiful diversity (yet similarity) of humanity, the better it is for them and their world. I would hope that my fellow white people have had enough of the superficial and artificial world of Barbie, and are ready to open their eyes to the fact that beauty, art, love, expression, emotion, pain, and happiness occur in all shades, hues, shapes, and sizes.

Beyond this being a fun, meaningful story about a smart girl, the illustrations really convey a feel and a location. The clothing and faces and hairstyles in these pictures are stunning. Sure to grasp and ignite the imagination of children, and many adults also.

When the pages of this book start turning, you are engulfed in a world of beauty and color.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lientje on December 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I have been collecting children's illustrated books for just a little over 10 years now, and Trina Schart Hyman, along with Aliki, are the two illustrators that got me interested.
Hyman's book The Fortune-Tellers (Picture Puffin Books) was a real eye-catcher as is this one and co-incidentally the two sets of illustrations are very similar in
theme and nature, a very well defined village and landscape from Africa. Ms Hyman (the mother of the author) recently died and will be very much missed. I hope that her daughter will
remain in the area of children's illustrated book. This is a stunning and very well written book.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on October 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is a fairy tale. Some of the things that make it a fairy tale is there is a 7 headed fire beathing monster. She can talk to animals. She is smarter then the king. The king tried to kill her three times and never succeeded. When they do something three times that is a pattern in fairy tales. I recommend this book to everybody that likes fairy tales!
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