Most helpful positive review
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
magical tale with a sly sense of humor
on August 19, 2005
Lloyd Alexander is so incredibly talented; I was thrilled when I stumbled upon this children's book, previously unknown to me. The Fortune-tellers is a story of an old fraud whose prophesies for every customer are identical and very tongue-in-cheek. For example, the young man who comes to hear his fortune is told that he will become rich provided he can earn a lot of money, live a long life assuming it is not cut short by an early demise, and will marry his true love on the condition that he meets her, proposes to her, and she accepts him. The young carpenter is overjoyed by the good news of his future and runs back with more questions; however, he finds the room empty and when others come in, they assume that he is the fortune-teller transformed into a younger body. As the carpenter had been wishing for another trade, he takes the place of the old man, giving out the same advice which had been given to him. When this advice proves very popular he, in fact, achieves the wealth, happiness, and long life which had been "foretold" and often thinks fondly of the man who had seen the future so clearly. We learn of the fate of the real fortune-teller as well, who fell out of a window and spent the remainder of his life plagued by troubles. The humour in this story is great and will be enjoyed the most by older elementary or middle-school children who "get" the jokes.
I can't finish this review without commenting on the wonderful illustrations. The Caldecott medal-winning illustrator, Trina Schart Hyman, based them on her travels to Cameroon and they are truly exquisite. Rich and full of detail, each page is tapestry of colors and textures. This story is a perfect teaching tool and is a window for children onto the beauty of Africa and the bountiful humor and wisdom of its people. An entire unit could be developed from identifying and learning more about the foods, household items, clothing and fabrics, buildings, professions, landscape and animals shown in the amazing paintings found in this book. Even if you aren't able to develop such a unit, this book is an excellent choice to build interest and begin a discussion about West Africa.