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The Village of Round and Square Houses Hardcover – May 30, 1986

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tos is an actual village, on the side of an inactive volcano in Central Africa. It is the village in the book's title, where women dwell in round thatch-roofed huts and men live in square ones. This book tells the story of how the houses were so designated, in the aftermath of the volcano releasing its full fury on the village. Grifalconi effortlessly embroiders the customs of the village into her melodious narration. The author, who has illustrated over 50 children's books, including Lucille Clifton's Everett Anderson books, here illustrates her own tale, told to her by a young girl who grew up in Tos. The resting purple volcano, suddenly erupting into orange; the eerie orange sun; the villagers covered with ash; the purple and orange skies; the dense, lush junglesall are captured beautifully by Grifalconi's art.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 2-4 The telling of this beautifully coordinated African folk tale is shared by a little girl and her grandmother who live in the village of Tos in West Central Africa. This village in Cameroons is located at the foot of Naka Mountain, which is believed by the grandmother to be partially responsible for the "natural order of things" which specifies that the men of the village reside in the square houses and the women in the round houses. The first half of the book describes the events of a typical day among the members of the young girl's family: work in the fields; the supper preparation; eating the meal; the post-mealtime relaxation. When Gran'ma Tika finishes smoking her pipe, she becomes the storyteller for the second half of the book as she tells her granddaughter about the time Naka Mountain erupted. The villagers were miraculously spared, but the village was destroyed except for two housesone square and one round. The village chief, unable to distinguish his ash-covered subjects, assigned the "tall gray things" (men) to live in the square house, and the "round gray things" (women) to live in the round house. Sensitive chalk drawings emit expressions of dignity, strength, love and warmth among the characters. Appropriate and complementary earth tones predominate. The skills which Grifalconi exhibited in her City Rhythms (Bobbs-Merrill, 1965; o.p.) are perfected in this exquisitely beautiful and appealing book. Helen E. Williams, University of Maryland, College Park
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: AD850L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 4th Printing edition (May 30, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780316328623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316328623
  • ASIN: 0316328626
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 0.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #580,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Village of Round and Square Houses, is a story told byalittle girl, Osa, about how the people in her Central African villageof Tos ended up having the men live in square houses and the women in round ones. Osa's story begins with vivid descriptions and pictures of day to day life including their eating rituals in which the men come to eat with the women and children in the round house. Grifalconi uses bright, beautiful colors and illustrations, which help set the happy and peaceful mood. As Osa's grandmother tells her the story of how the great Naka Mountain burst open sending lava, ashes and smoke everywhere, Grifalconi does a good job of depicting the eruption. She contrasts the color orange on black and later shows the village and people all covered with ashes, with only two houses left standing. Since Naka had spared them and these two houses, the men and women split up and have been living this way ever since. The language and descriptions that she uses to tell the story are unique and informative; she keeps the reader wanting to know more. Grifalconi also does a good job of portraying the culture and tradition in the small village. In a note to the reader at the beginning of the book, she states that this village of Tos really does exist but that it is almost entirely isolated which makes its culture unique with different traditions from other African villages. The story, The Village of the Round and Square Houses, tells of the importance of family and the respect given to the elders. For the eldest in this family has the wooden stool to sit on and the next eldest has the grass mat. The children help the women cook, and everyone eats supper taking turns in order, starting with the eldest right down to the youngest child.Read more ›
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By A Customer on February 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book to share with children. Children need to know that different cultures do things differently. Culture is a big part of people and how they live their lives. This book was awarded a Caldecott Honor in 1987 for the wonderful pastel pictures. I, myself, loved this book and so did my children in the classroom.
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Format: Hardcover
Ann Grifalconi has made profoundly important contributions to American children's literature as she has realized the importance of including the voices and stories of racially/ethnically marginalized communities.Her impressive repertoire of children's picture books includes stories with African and African American characters and themes. <i>Village of Round and Square Houses</i> is a story about a rural village in Cameroon. Grifalconi adapted the story of how the people in this particular village developed and normalized gender roles in the format of a children's book. As a Zimbabwean, myself, I could relate and respect the author paying authentic homage to African oral traditions and storytelling formatting. The emphasis on the people's affinity to nature and traditional spirituality is quite accurate for many African communities across the continent. Many communities use mythology to make sense of the real world. There may or may not have been a volcano which erupted in the Tos village a long time ago but the story of the volcano and the ancient ancestors helps elders explain why their society is set up the way it is. My grandfather used to tell me similar stories with the tortoise and the hare, and other animal stories. I was initially surprised by the content of this story. Many African children's books that have evident gendered roles never explain why they exist. They are just taken as fact and can often leave the reader thinking that all African communities are like that. I like how this story makes sure the reader knows that this a specific story with mythology that is particular to the people of the Tos Village. The author makes sure that the reader knows that these gendered roles weren't always like this but were something the community became accustomed to. The warm, vibrate illustrations compliment the colorfulness of the story very well. Overall, this is an interesting read and I would recommend it be read in classrooms.
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By A Customer on October 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
We enjoyed the story within the story of this book. It tells why some huts are round and some are square to this day in a small African village. This story is of men's & women's strengths & differences, the celebration of family and of the tradition of storytelling. The artwork adds to the quality of this book.
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