From School Library Journal
Grade 4 Up?A fascinating collection of 20 traditional folktales that makes the Fon culture of Benin come alive. According to Mama, a native speaker of Fon, this is the first time many of these tales have been translated and retold in English. The brief stories are well suited for sharing or reading aloud. They are grouped in four broad categories: "Orphans, Twin, and Other Children," "Cautionary Tales and Spirit Stories," "Pourquoi Tales and Animal Wisdom," and "Trickster Tales: Yogbo the Glutton." While the selections evoke the cultural values of the Fon people, the structure of some of them will be familiar to many readers. For example, "The Prince and the Orphan," with its beautiful protagonist, her cruel stepsisters, and handsome prince, is a variant of the Cinderella tale-type. Mama provides an excellent overview of Benin culture and folklore in his introduction, and includes brief notes for each story that explain background information, known variants, and mention of any alterations he has made to the oral tale. Stylized woodcuts appear at the beginning of each grouping of tales. Although the stories stand well on their own, the pictures help place them within the context of their culture. Overall, this is an important contribution to folklore scholarship.?Denise Anton Wright, Alliance Library System, Bloomington, IL
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 4^-6, and for professional use. In the preface to this collection of folktales from his native Benin, Mama (now an associate professor of English at Eastern Connecticut State University) states that the book springs from his ongoing project, preserving the stories of "one of the richest oral traditions in Africa, the tales of the Fon people." The anthology includes stories of orphans, children, spirits, animals, and tricksters as well as cautionary and pourquoi
tales. They all share a sense of dignity in the telling, whether the narrative involves a Cinderella figure who attends the ball dressed in rags, a man who honors a leper at his wedding, or a glutton who outfoxes a self-satisfied goat. Mama's notes appear at the end of each tale. Although he's too creative a storyteller to present the tales exactly as recorded, Mama is too good a scholar not to tell what he has changed or added. A rich, varied source of lively tales for children and storytellers to enjoy. Carolyn Phelan