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Sundiata: Lion King of Mali Paperback – January 22, 1999


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Sundiata: Lion King of Mali + The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay: Life in Medieval Africa
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (January 22, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395764815
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395764817
  • Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 8.7 x 0.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A 13th-century prince overcomes physical infirmities and exile to rule Mali; of the artist's "stunning" cut-paper collages, PW said, "Historically accurate images are sharp without starkness, expressive of raw power and delicate fragility by turns." Ages 5-9.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 2-4-- An appealing biography of Sundiata, credited as the founder of the Mali empire. A lengthy author's note informs readers as to how little firsthand information on the topic is available, and that what is known has been handed down orally by griots , or African storytellers. Therefore, the narrative has the distinctive, if somewhat mystical, flow of an oral history. Sundiata neither walks nor speaks for the first seven years of his life, but is still named heir over his older brother. Regardless of the pronouncement, following the king's death, Sundiata and his mother are forced into exile. How the Lion King of Mali defeats his enemies and becomes the rightful ruler makes for an exciting tale. Wisniewski's characteristic artwork (vivid colored paper designs that have been intricately cut, arranged, mounted, and then photographed) add to the drama of the tale and are consistent with the folkloric tone. The characters have personality and vitality, and the setting has a texture and richness that heightens climactic moments of the story. Neither straightforward biography nor folktale, this is an interesting combination of the two. While some younger listeners may have difficulty following the somewhat choppy nature of the narrative as years fly by between the major events, older children will appreciate both the flavor and intrigue. All in all, another fine effort from a talented author/illustrator. --Linda Greengrass, Bank Street College Library, NY
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Chris Fung on June 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who wants to introduce a child (or even someone who is not so young) to the REAL glories of ancient Africa could do a lot worse than start with this book.
Beautifully illustrated, and simply written it retells the life of the great culture hero Sunjata (variously spelled Sundiata, Son-Jara or other ways depending on the language and inclination of the translator).
According to the story, Sunjata defeated the sorcerer-king Suma'oro Kante and liberated the Manding people (of modern day Guinea, Mali, plus parts of Senegal, Gambia, Cote D'Ivoire and Burkina Faso) wielding them together into a great empire in the mid 13th century. To modern Manding poeple, Sunjata is roughly equivalent in stature to Abraham Lincoln, Moses or the first Qin Emperor.
This version is very close to the original tale as told by the griots of west Africa (check out D.T. Niane's "Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali" for a traditional telling of the story or, for the really adventurous, D.W. Johnson and Fa-Digi Cissoko's scholarly rendition "Son-Jara: An African Epic"). A sung version of part of the Sunjata fassa (epic praise poem) can be found on the CD "An Be Kelen (We are One): Griot Music from Mali" also available on Amazon.
Sunjata's story includes sorcery, prodigious battles, and the triumph of nobility over gossip and envy. For modern readers, an especially powerful feature is the famous story of Sunjata overcoming childhood disability (he is crippled and -in some versions, unable to talk) to become the leader of the Malian people.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on December 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
My history teacher read us this book and thought it was great. I hope to own it some day. also the pictures are beautiful.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a unique and interesting book for children with lovely illustrations. It focuses Arab culture and history in an objective manner.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has some of the most beautiful illustrations I have ever seen and brings to life a culture not usually appreciated in the western world. Any child, whatever the color, would find the tale and life lessons of Sundiata moving and the art of Leo and Diane Dillon inspiring.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book only gets three stars because there is little out there (beyond the spectacularly good Shaka, King of the Zulus) on African historical stories for children. The illustrations are "beautiful", if you're an adult interested in woodcut art. They are not very helpful to children trying to follow a story. The text is overly broad and vague. It tells the story in broad strokes, without the detail and imagery that interest children. Still, it is better than nothing and I'll definitely use it to tatters.
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By S. Torres on July 17, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I met this artist,story teller years ago and have always been a fan of his beautiful work. The art work is amazing.
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