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The Matatu Hardcover – April 1, 2012
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"Campbell's illustrations effortlessly transport the reader to Kikima, Kenya. She evokes the richness of the Kenyan people and their culture by employing vivid colours and distinctive dress...The Matatu is both a beautiful and a light-hearted glimpse into the lives and stories of the Kenyan people. Walters expertly switches gears on the reader by turning a story of adventure into one of hilarity. However, The Matatu is not merely a folktale. Walters has also crafted a story that exemplifies the grandparent-grandchild relationship." (CM Magazine 2012-02-24)
"Oil paintings provide realistic details of contemporary rural Kenya but include a few spreads in which the animals humorously take on anthropomorphic characteristics. The author's note, drawing upon his Kenyan experiences, will amuse adults...The love and respect shown between Kioko and his grandfather is both universal and sweetly evident." (Kirkus Reviews 2012-03-15)
"Campbell fills her oil paintings with bright colors and commotion, portraying her animals with trickster-like characteristics. Walters offers tender insight into a grandfather and grandson relationship, while depicting a unique cultural experience." (Publishers Weekly 2012-03-19)
"The enjoyable view of life in this faraway country beautifully frames a universal special relationship between a child and a grandparent. Children and adults will smile at Kioko's concluding action in response to his grandfather's tale." (School Library Journal 2012-05-01)
"With a wry mix of realism and folklore, Walters draws on his work in rural Kenya to tell the story of Kioko...Campbell’s bright, mischievous watercolors show the passengers on the crowded seats with the conductor picking his way down the aisle collecting fares, along with close-up images of Kioko as he listens to his beloved grandpa tell a story while they drive through dusty roads past huts, houses, and market stalls. Along with the vivid setting, there is a playful story based on a Kamba folktale...The bond between Kioko and his grandpa will grab kids, and so will the sly twist when the boy tries to fix things and change the old folktale." (Booklist 2012-05-15)
"Campbell's oil paintings capture the bright colours and designs on the matatu...[Walters] expands on a Kenyan folktale that is sure to amuse children and adults." (Resource Links 2012-04-01)
"Both the folk tale and the love connection between Kioko and his grandfather are very appealing." (www.spiritualityandpractice.com 2012-05-30)
"This tender story evokes the feeling of a grandfather and his grandson. The illustrations, too, transport the reader to East Africa. Children will love this story and will want to share it with their own grandparents." (Southwestern Ohio Young Adult Materials Review Group 2012-05-15)
"Lively oil paintings illustrate the sunny Kenyan villages and the bustling yellow matatu." (BC Bookworld 2012-07-01)
"Walters, who runs an organization that helps Kenyan orphans, does an exemplary job of providing a cultural snapshot of Kioko's world. The affection between Kioko and his grandfather is effectively captured in Campbell's lively oil paintings, which also depict a dynamic, color-filled village and expressive villagers." (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 2012-07-01)
Come for an African bus ride with a dog, a goat and a sheep!
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Even if readers skip the Forward from the Director of the Creation of Hope and the author's note, most American children will soon realize that The Matatu is about a different culture. Women carrying baskets on their heads isn't the norm in the United States. The marketplace with its huts, houses, and stalls isn't a common sight. Mandazi (fried bread or East African doughnuts) might be an unknown term. And then there's the matatu, which attracts the attention of two dogs, and for which one deposits shillings to ride.
The forward reveals that a Kamba folktale exists about matatus and animals. One day the Director of the Creation of Hope in Kenya shared a brief version of it with author Eric Walters. Finding the story hilarious, Walters decided to capture it in picture book format. Before Walters was allowed to do this, however, the Kamba people needed to designate Walters as one of their elders with the right to tell their stories. The author's note further reveals that drivers of the matatu "barrel along at whatever speed the road will allow" and drive on "whichever side of the road is least potholed".
Although reading the two informational notes provides insight into The Matatu, the story can also stand on its own as a shared moment between a grandfather and a grandson. The bus ride contains twists and turns, as does the charming tale told by Kioko's grandfather. After reading The Matatu, young readers might become more curious about the stories their own grandparents have to share. They might also want to jump aboard an African bus for a ride with a dog, a goat, and a sheep!