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The Magic Gourd (Aesop Prize (Awards)) Hardcover – February 1, 2003
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From School Library Journal
Grade 1-3-Diakite sets his story in his native Mali. After Dogo Zan the rabbit saves a chameleon from a sticky situation, he is given a magic gourd that fills with whatever its owner wishes in payment for his kindness. When the greedy king learns about its magic powers, he takes the gourd by force. Using another gift from the chameleon, Dogo Zan recovers his treasure and teaches a lesson in generosity as well. Diakit illustrates this tale with paintings on ceramic tiles, plates and bowls, and borders with designs from Bamana mud cloth patterns, which are imbued with their own symbolism. The resultant images, set against color-saturated backgrounds, are often arresting. The end matter includes lyrics to a praise song that illustrates the importance of spiritual wealth over material possessions, a description of pertinent aspects of the author's childhood, an explanation of the mud cloth designs, and a note about the widespread dissemination of stories with similar plot motifs. Overall, this is an attractive folktale variant.
Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 2-4, younger for reading aloud. With characteristic energy and spirit, Diakite retells a tale from his native Mali and illustrates it with painted, boldly patterned art created from ceramics. Searching for food for his famine-stricken family, Brother Rabbit pauses to free a chameleon from a thorn bush, and, in return, receives a magic bowl that fills with anything upon request. After a greedy king seizes the bowl, Chameleon gives Rabbit another gift--a rock that wreaks havoc on anyone who does not speak to it with respect. Rabbit uses the rock to regain his prize--and by choosing to leave the royal treasure behind, is able to reform the king. Bordering each ceramic design is a different "mud cloth" textile pattern, the meaning of which the artist explains in a lengthy postscript. Diakite closes with a discussion of the story's themes and antecedents, an introduction to praise songs, and a glossary of the Bambara exclamations and expressions that punctuate the story. Despite the pounding rock, this is less violent than many European variants of the tale; it actually focuses more on kindness than on trickery. John Peters
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top customer reviews
While written in traditional picture book format, this book is best read to youngsters for both the joy of oral storytelling traditions which are so important to folk tales as well as because of the potential unfamiliarity of some words and the occasional irregularity of traditional English grammar. Besides, they will not be able to keep their eyes from the illustrations long enough to read a whole page! A fun family read.
When Rabbit does a good deed for Chameleon, he is rewarded with a gourd that magically fills up with whatever its owner asks for. Rabbit requests carrots, couscous and other foods. Soon his family has sufficient food to invite friends and neighbors for meals.
Word of the gourd spreads until it reaches the ears of a greedy king, who has his soldiers forcibly take it from Rabbit. The ruler then spends his days commanding the gourd to fill with gold. Rabbit wants his gourd back, but how can he recover it?
In an "Author's Note," Diakite relates that he grew up in an extended family in rural Mali. The tales he heard around the fire at night kindled his imagination during days tending sheep and goats.
The illustrations--reproductions of Diakite's hand-painted ceramic tiles, plates and bowls--are bordered with traditional patterns, each with a specific meaning, used by Mali's Bamana people in creating a unique textile known as mud cloth.
The story, paintings, informational endnotes, even a dust-jacket photo of the author and his two daughters in traditional dress, work together to create a generous cross-cultural gift.