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Mabela the Clever Paperback – January 1, 2001

4.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

MacDonald's (Pickin' Peas) spry retelling of an African folktale, in which a mouse imparts the importance of using all the senses, is alight with humor (" `Oh, my, you have ALL arrived!' said the Cat. `How delicious... I mean, how delightful.' "). Tricked by a cat into thinking they're being initiated into his secret society, a village full of mice foolishly learn and obey the words to the club's song: "When we are marching,/ we never look back!/ The cat is at the end,/ Fo Feng!/ Fo Feng!" He promptly absconds with the last mouse in line at each refrain ("Every time the mice shouted Fo Feng! The Cat Fo Fenged another mouse!"). Leading the procession is little Mabela, who has been taught to keep her ears and eyes open, pay attention and, if necessary, "move fast!" Which is exactly what she does once she figures out what Cat is up to, and traps her pursuer, thereby saving all the captured mice. Coffey (Red Berry Wool) plays up the comedy in his subtly exaggerated illustrations. Cat's sharply angular face and elongated oval eyes make an amusing visual contrast to the plump, google-eyed, multi-colored mice. His acrylics on watercolor paper textured with gesso create an appealingly tactile quality, and the uncluttered setting of thatched-roof huts, tawny plains and vibrant greenery are punctuated by bright red-and-purple geometric borders that recall African fabrics. Ages 4-7.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 2-MacDonald's retelling of this Limba tale is engineered for storytime success. The silly mice in Mabela's village are hunted by one clever cat. Thankfully, Mabela is pretty clever herself compared to most of her peers. When the cat invites the mice to join her "secret Cat Society," they can hardly believe their luck. All they have to do is lead the cat into the forest, sing at the top of their lungs, and never look back. Because she is the smallest mouse, Mabela is the first in line. With every loud refrain, however, she notices substantial evidence that fewer and fewer mice seem to be singing and marching behind her. Remembering her wise father's advice for survival when she is "out and about," Mabela manages to save her friends and leave the treacherous cat tangled in thorns. MacDonald prefaces the story with brief background information about the oral tradition in Limba culture and suggests an original song and a game to encourage creative interaction. Coffey's thatch-strewn paintings, rendered in acrylic on watercolor paper textured with gesso, feature lots of visibly clueless, wide-eyed mice, and his cat oozes predatory shrewdness to the very end.

Catherine T. Quattlebaum, DeKalb County Public Library, Atlanta, GA

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 2
  • Lexile Measure: 380 (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780807549032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807549032
  • ASIN: 0807549037
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 10.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,052,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I enjoy storybooks adapted from oral storytelling. This story is from the Limba people in Sierra Leone, Africa. The illustrations are simplistic but not meant to be completely realistic. The mice are purple, green, yellow and gray. Mabella, being the main character mouse, is red. All of the mice have ping-pong ball eyes that give them a foolish appearance. She is different than the other mice because she pays attention to the advice her father's advice of listening, looking and paying attention to her surroundings. He also recommends fleeing quickly from bad situations. How will these lessons come into play when the mice meet a pleasant cat inviting them to join a secret cat society?

I really like the last line of the story, "Limba grandparents say, "If a person is clever, it is because someone has taught them their cleverness."
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Format: Hardcover
What does it mean to be clever? Does it mean that when you attend cocktail parties with a chosen circle of friends you're able to whip out a series of timely bon mots? Does it mean that you have the ability to finish every Sunday crossword puzzle that appears in the New York Times? Or does it, perhaps, mean that you use the full range of your brain at all times, thereby saving yourself from harm in the long run? My vote is for the last. And, as the delightful "Mabela the Clever" by Margaret Read MacDonald concurs, not much more need be said on the subject.

Says the book from the start, "In the early times, some were clever and some were foolish. The Cat was one of the clever ones. The mice were mostly foolish". Mostly. There are exceptions to every rule and in this case the exception is named Mabela. Mabela comes from a loving family, one that has given her much good advice in the past. Says her father to her, one should always keep their ears open to listen, their eyes open to see, pay attention to everything you say, and "if you have to move, MOVE FAST!". A sweet little red mouse, Mabela finds use for this parcel of wisdom when a large charming orange pussycat persuades the mice to learn all the secrets of the cat. To do so, they need only walk in a line with the cat in the rear, singing, "When we are marching, we never look back! The cat is at the end! Fo Feng! Fo Feng!". It's Mabela who realizes, at the front of this line, that something is amiss. Especially when the voices of the others behind her becomes softer.... and softer...

Fear not, little children. Though I'm sure that the original folktale of this story had the cat eat every one of the foolish mousies, it does not do so here.
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Format: Paperback
This is a perfect story for reading aloud to primary grade and kindergarten students. It has a message that is presented in a fun way. If you heed the wise words of Mabela's father, you can outsmart the sly cat. When reading this story to kindergarten students, I pretend I am the cat and the students take on the role of the mice. The children speak the sing-song phrase, We get to join the cat club, we get to join the cat club! And they repeat the words of the marching song, clapping their hands in rhythm and calling out Fo Feng! (We pronounce it fo-fen for the sake of the rhyme). There is so much to notice and discuss. For example, how come the cat gets stuck in the thorns and Maybela doesn't? After the story, I help the student make stand-up cats out of orange construction paper. Since the story is African, they draw bold designs in black Crayola marker on the cat's body. This is one of my favorite story times to present and every class I've ever had loves it!
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By Ulyyf on January 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
A good story with an unusual moral - at least, I've never heard "Pay attention and THINK about what you're saying!" presented as a moral before, although God knows it ought to be.

No mousies are harmed in the reading of this story. My only real concern with it is that I have no idea how authentic it is.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This charming folktale from Africa is beautifully retold by Margaret Read MacDonald. Elementary children like the repetitions and the the cat's catchy marching song. I've given this book to all my grandchildren.
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Format: Hardcover
"Mabela the Clever" is retold by Margaret Read MacDonald, with illustrations by Tim Coffey. An introductory note states that the story has its origins with the Limba people of Africa. The book tells the story of the inhabitants of a picturesque mouse village. A cat comes to the mouse village with an astounding offer. But are his promises too good to be true? And what will Mabela, the clever hero of the title, do about the situation?
This is a suspenseful story that is well enhanced by Coffey's whimsical pictures. His colorful artwork is full of details; he also does a good job of using his pictures to enhance the story's characterizations. And in the end, some good lessons are imparted to the reader.
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Format: Hardcover
I just love stories in which small clever creatures outwit big strong stupid ones. They offer children such an empowering message! In this case, the greedy cat is quite clever himself, and the majority of mice are silly and foolish. Only Mabela keeps her wits about her, and she uses her size to her advantage. I do wish that she had required a little more cleverness to resolve the problem. To fully enjoy this story, you'll need an audience of mice to sing the Secret Cat Song with you: boldly, then softer and softer until only Mabela is left to rescue them.
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