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Jambo Means Hello: Swahili Alphabet Book (Picture Puffin Books) Paperback – July 15, 1992

4.5 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Swahili --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Feelings focused on the Black American experience and African culture throughout his long and distinguished career as a fine artist and illustrator. He was the first African American artist to win a Caldecott Honor.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 3 - 5 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - Kindergarten
  • Lexile Measure: AD640L (What's this?)
  • Series: Picture Puffin Books
  • Paperback: 56 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin Books; Reissue edition (July 15, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140546529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140546521
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 0.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
Originally published in 1974, "Jambo Means Hello" made waves when it first appeared. The book strives to present East African lifestyles for the viewer using a technique that produces the 24 letters of the Swahili alphabet. Each letter is the beginning of a word in Swahili, and the text and pictures illustrate how this word fits into the daily interactions of Eastern Africans. From the "A" of arusi (a wedding) to the Z of the zeze (a stringed instrument) the reader is given a series of interesting situations and illustrations.

Now when this book first came out it was unique in its field. Since the 1970s, however, our standards for non-fiction picture books have risen a little and "Jambo Means Hello" is not necessarily the best book of its kind anymore. Looking at it today is an interesting exercise in changing perceptions. First of all, I'd like to commend author Muriel Feelings for her incredibly informative Introduction. Producing a map of Africa that clearly delineates the countries where Swahili is the primary language, she explains about the continent, the people, and the fact that Swahili hasn't a Q or X sound. The book then enters into the letters, accompanied by Tom Feelings's pencil and ink drawings. These pictures are entirely respectful of their subjects. People, objects, and the land itself are presented beautifully here. Though the illustrations are all black and white, you do not feel the lack of color is a loss of any kind.

I haven't any problems with the illustrations of this book, but I do feel that the text is a bit outdated at times.
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Format: Paperback
Following the idea that language cannot be separated from the culture that speaks it, this book introduces children to some basic words and customs of the people who traditionally speak Swahili. Any child interested in foreign languages, or perhaps just the names in the Lion King (taken from Swahili, Simba=lion, Rafiki=friend)will appreciate this simple introduction to another language and culture. Older children may even be motivated to learn more on their own. I highly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
This children's book, also illustrated by Tom Feelings, is an alphabet book that teaches Swahili words and African culture. With each word, a child learns more about this vibrant African culture. It was a 1975 Caldecott Honor book (i.e., a runner-up to the Medal winner) for best illustration in a children's book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am an American citizen, but my fiance is Kenyan. I was thrilled to find this book, since when we have children I want them to know as much about his culture as they do mine. I really like the idea of this book - introducing young children to Kiswahili words, and I love the pronunciation guides that are provided. I only have one complaint with this book. Its focus is completely on rural life, rural traditions, and rural culture. There is nothing about the larger African cities (my fiance grew up in Nairobi... not a tiny village). So if your goal is to learn a few Kiswahili words (although many of the words themselves are related to rural life), then this is a great book. But do not expect to get any idea of modern aspects of African life or city life. Even so, the book is cute, and worth it just for the Kiswahili it does contain.
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Format: Paperback
jambo means hello is an informational book that teaches basic Swahili words that correspond to each letter in the alphabet.The Swahili words listed are defined in English and presented with a pronunciation key. A passage describing African culture pertaining to that particular word is also on the same page.Muriel Feelings uses a double-page layout to provide the reader a chance to think about that Swahili word before the next one is presented. The black and white illustrations, that expand upon the text, are composed with white tempura paint, black ink and linseed oil. An author and illustrator biography as well as an introduction to Africa are other parts of the book worth reading.

This Caldecott Honor book is fun and informative. It gives a good introduction to Swahili and some east African culture.This book provides the reader with detailed descriptions that influence further investigations of this foreign culture and language.
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My husband is Kenyan and I want our newborn twins to learn Swahili. This book is a great primer for learning different words in Swahili and also introduces children (and the parents!) to different aspects of East African culture.
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Format: Paperback
Jambo Means Hello is an alphabet book that has a Swahili word on each page starting with the corresponding letter. The word will be "baba" for mother, or "jambo" for hello, for instance. Then, there is the English translation of the word, and a short paragraph about the cultural meaning of the word. The book is accompanied by detailed black and white pencil drawings illustrating the cultural concept of the word in a typical small village in Africa. The drawings are very realistic and convey a strong sense of family, from the youngest children to the eldest grandparents. The lack of color in the pencil drawings makes the illustrations very realistic, but not as visually interesting. Children would probably prefer a more colorfully-illustrated book for this reason, even though the drawings are very skilled. The target audience for this group would be an early reader or someone learning their ABCs, to learn the different letters of the alphabet as receiving exposure to a different culture.
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