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Off to the Sweet Shores of Africa: and Other Talking Drum Rhymes Hardcover – August, 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
In the introduction to this collection, inspired by traditional Mother Goose rhymes, Nigerian-born Unobagha says that she hopes these verses about Africa will deliver "important cultural messages to readers" about her homeland. Unobagha is at her best with onomatopoetic sounds that conjure the rhythms of village life, as in a spread of music rhymes ("Ifidom the village drum/ Rolled around on his tummy-tum") or nature sounds ("'Rush!' says the tradewind,/ 'Rush! Rush! Rush!'/ As it races through the leaves"). Less successful verses rely heavily on devices and forms used in the original Mother Goose rhymes ("Here we go round the mulberry bush" becomes "Here we go dancing the rumba dance") or awkwardly strain for effect: "Round and round/ My wrapper wraps,/ Round and round/ My tiny waist,/ Round and round/ She flaps and laps,/ When I'm in a mighty haste." The playful, joyful rhymes brim with African words and shed light on culture and customs, and a helpful glossary at the end of the book explains unfamiliar terms. Cairns's watercolors burst with energy as silhouetted characters walk the shores of the Limpopo River and dance to the market. Varied, artful designs feature not only full-color paintings of animals, plants, baskets and village scenes, but plenty of spot art and bright borders that resemble African fabrics. All ages. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 1-4-From the vibrant patterned endpapers to the rich, warm watercolor paintings in which dark-skinned villagers appear throughout, this is a beautifully designed volume. In an introductory note, Unobagha explains her desire to create a series of simple rhymes to portray West African culture in a way similar to the Mother Goose rhymes' presentation of European tradition. Although the author successfully incorporates numerous children and adults, animals, objects, and customs into her verses, the poems do not always scan or rhyme and are not always easy to read or recite. The selections in Virginia Kroll's Jaha and Jamil Went Down the Hill: An African Mother Goose (Charlesbridge, 1994) deliberately imitate specific Mother Goose rhymes, while Unobagha's are more original and strive to capture the spirit of the nursery verses rather than their exact style. Unfortunately, many of her poems begin with vivid imagery but fail to maintain their imagistic quality to the end and sometimes fizzle out inconclusively. A few terms, such as "ging-gong," are not included in the glossary and may leave readers wondering if they are African terms or just nonsense words created to carry out the rhymes. This book will be useful for libraries building large collections of materials on African heritage, but not for those looking for a storyhour resource.
Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
"Off to the sweet shores of Africa,
Off, with my harp and harmonica,
I'll follow the walking, talking drum
To the land, where sunbirds hum."
The language of these rhymes is African: cowrie shells, akara balls, palm, papaya, coral and mango trees and African places from the Sahara to Zambezi. Reinforced by the theme of African mores and traditions, the rhymes inform and entertain, exploring the culture, rich ancestral history and pride in African descent:
"Race the striped zebra across the plains,
Race the striped zebra over the lanes,
Hip! For the zebra!
Hip! For me!
Hurray! For the happy and free!"
The stunning illustrations that complement the rhymes are arresting, images of the African countryside, the indigenous people, animals, fauna and flora, the scorching ball of yellow sun, straw-hatted huts, the colorful garments of children at play, velvet deep nights, myriad stars twinkling above the sleeping village:
"What is the pale moon made of?
What is the pale moon made of?
Of cowrie shells and ivory
Dipped in the shimmering, silvery sea
And tossed up like a rubber ball
To be gazed upon by all."
Family, tradition, the nurturing of children; the author has written beautiful phrases of place and childhood, accompanied by truly inspirational illustrations. Luan Gaines/ 2006.