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


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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: 8.8 x 0.1 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,630 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.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mary Josefina Cade on September 23, 2014
Format: Paperback
I ordered this book for some children, dear to my heart, who have a West African heritage. Once it arrived I ordered another for myself. The illustrations are outstandingly beautiful and inspirational as is the story of Sundiata, the sickly boy who grows to be a powerful king. Unfortunately the beauty of the colours can't be seen in the cover as shown on the Amazon shop front. The picture appears to have been misted over in some strange way.

I googled the artist/writer David Wisniewski and was extremely sorry to discover that he died in 2002. On the evidence of 'Sundiata' he was amazingly talented and I wish he was still here to produce more books. Luckily I found that other books created by him were still available, so have ordered those as well!

The West African griot culture is an important part of the story of Sundiata. Griots were and remain the keepers of wisdom at the centre of an oral tradition. David Wisniewski creates wonderful pictures of the king's court and of a griot, Sundiata's teacher, from whom he is to learn 'the history of your ancestors and the laws of this life.' We also see pictures of the West African harp-lute, the kora, the musical instrument most associated with these teachers at the present time.

Myths, legends and fairy tales often contain the greatest wisdom. I especially enjoyed the scene where, encouraged by his griot teacher, the child Sundiata finally learns to stand up. The beginning of the making of a Lion King. This book would be an interesting present for any child, but especially, of course, for those who live in or have ties with West Africa.
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Arie Farnam on July 30, 2013
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Noad on February 23, 2014
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
Oh my God, this is a beautiful book and the story was so well told. I have shared it with other homeschooling parents and they all loved it enough to purchase their own copies to add to their personal home libraries. Beautiful!!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have a friend who will be moving to Ghana, so I bought him this book. It tells the tale of a legendary hero, told with beautiful paper cut out illustrations.
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Sundiata: Lion King of Mali
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