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Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale Hardcover – January, 2003

4.9 out of 5 stars 121 customer reviews

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--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

PreSchool-Grade 3 An African villager named Mufaro had two daughters whom everyone agreed were beautiful. However, their dispositions were not alike: Manyara had a bad temper and was selfish (although not in front of Mufaro); Nyasha was always kind and considerate both to people and to animals. When Mufaro receives word that the Great King is inviting all of the most worthy and beautiful women to appear before him so that he might choose a wife, Mufaro decides that both of his daughters should go. Manyara, believing herself more worthy and beautiful than her sister, sets out alone so that she can be presented to the king before her sister. What happens to each girl along the way depends on her response to the strange people whom she encounters. This folktale shows the traditional qualities, characterizations, and predictability. It is distinguished, however, by its colorful ink and watercolor illustrations of the costumes, artifacts, flora, and fauna of the Zimbabwe region. The expressive drawings of people and events enhance the story and serve to strengthen readers' familiarity with traditional African culture. A magnificently illustrated book, filled with rich textures and vibrant color, and a story that will satisfy young romantics as well as those with a strong sense of justice. Helen E. Williams, University of Maryland, College Park
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From the Back Cover

Mufaro was a happy man. Everyone agreed that his two daughters were very beautiful. Nyasha was kind and considerate as well as beautiful, but everyone -- except Mufaro -- knew that Manyara was selfish, badtempered, and spoiled.

When the king decided to take a wife and invited "The Most Worthy and Beautiful Daughters in the Land" to appear before him, Mufaro declared proudly that only the king could choose between Nyasha and Manyara. Manyara, of course, didn't agree, and set out to make certain that she would be chosen.

John Steptoe has created a memorable modem fable of pride going before a fall, in keeping with the moral of the folktale that was his inspiration. He has illustrated it with stunning paintings that glow with the beauty, warmth, and internal vision of the land and people of his ancestors.

--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 and up
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten and up
  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Live Oak Media (January 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591125421
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591125426
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 9.5 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,993,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book is usually described as an African variation on Cinderella and it has a similar story - when a king invites the women of his kingdom to come to his palace so that he can choose the most worthy to be his wife, two sisters appear before him and he chooses the kinder of the two. But this version of Cinderella is infinitely superior to the tale most Americans grow up on. The European Cinderella is a beloved story, but it contains a lot of odd messages. Cinderella is both good and beautiful, her stepsisters are ugly inside and out. Is the implication that only attractive people can be good? Cinderella's "goodness" doesn't seem to consist of anything but being a doormat. And when the prince falls in love with her, he doesn't seem to know anything about her except that she is beautiful.
In John Steptoe's version, inspired by an African folktale, the two sisters are both beautiful, but the beauty of one, Manyara, is only external. Her sister, Nyasha, the "Cinderella" character is beautiful inside and out. And her goodness doesn't consist just of doing what she's told to do. She's kind to all creatures, even Manyara. Furthermore, the king chooses her to be his queen not because of her beauty, but because he has secretly seen her her kindness and generosity (and her sister's meaness) in action. He chooses a good soul, not just a beautiful face. This version has all the elements that make Cinderella a classic, but ethically it's far, far better.
And as if that weren't enough, the illustrations in this book are sheer magic. More than any book we've read, this one has inspired in my daughter a fascination with Africa. The details of Steptoe's paintings, drawn from the plants, animals and architecture of Zimbabwe, are glorious. Everytime we read the book, my daughter and I talk about new things we notice about the pictures. I can't think of a single children's book I like better than this one.
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Format: Hardcover
I love how folktales around the world contain so many elements similar to one another. In John Steptoe's elegant, "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters", careful readers pick up echoes of such myths as Psyche & Cupid, Cinderella, and Roses & Pearls. Yet the story is inspired by an original folktale from 1895. Dedicating this book to the children of South Africa, Steptoe has created one of the most beautiful and eloquent picture books of our time.
Once there was a man with two beautiful daughters. Both were equal in loveliness, but different in temperament. While Nyasha was kind and good, Manyara was vain and cruel. When the king announces that he would like to meet these two girls and decide, between the two of them, which one he shall wed, the sly Manyara does her darndest to become queen and make her sister her servant.
The tale is vaguely disturbing in all the right ways. When Manyara sets out to get a jump on the king's affections by reaching the palace first, she comes across a series of odd sequences. A boy (with ears Spock himself would envy) is denied food, laughing trees are laughed back at, and a man with his head under his arm is ignored callously. The moral of the story is, of course, that to be good and kind is far better than to be cold and mean. Steptoe's illustrations lift this tale from being merely good to extraordinary. There is a realism to the characters that leaves the reader with little doubt that they were fashioned on real people. Steptoe has likewise stayed faithful to the land of Zimbabwe, where this tale is set. He has been inspired by everything from the architecture to the flora and fauna. But what I liked best was the clothing. The garments and jewelry of this story encase the characters, making each person practically a member of royalty.
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Format: Hardcover
In Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, John Steptoe combines stunning illustrations to create almost mystical surroundings for his characters, surroundings which serve to distinguish between the baser human characteristics, greed and pride, and those which we as humans must emulate, such as mercy and compassion. Steptoe creates the story's setting using the flora and fauna of an ancient ruin in Zimbabwe; the story itself is an English adaptation of a local African tale from today's indigenous inhabitants of the area. By encompassing a spiritual tale in realistic settings, Steptoe forces the reader to blur the line between reality and magic; however, this "magic" galvanizes to action by drawing distinctions between compassion and greed with which young readers can easily identify. This is the story of two sisters, Manyara and Nyasha, the beautiful daughters of Mufaro, two believably human girls who embody the characteristics of pride and humility. Children will quickly see that Manyara is selfish and ill tempered and that her promise to make her sister a servant in her house is based on jealousy. On the other hand, Nyasha is calm and kind; an aura of peace surrounds every action. Her singing, the villagers think, causes her garden to produce more bountifully than the others'. Even the animals find her friendly. She names and befriends a garden snake named Nyoka. The plot itself serves as a didactic tale with which children will identify. Themes of sibling rivalry and false appearances dominate the text. Steptoe mentions that the only person fooled into believing that Manyara is as kind as her sister is Mufaro, a theme that might resonate with children who endure the trials of living with siblings. The true test of character, however, comes when the King announces his search for a bride.Read more ›
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