"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pesky Mosquitos!

Zzzng! Zzzng! Zzzng! a Yoruba Tale retold by Phyllis Gershator. Illus. by Theresa Smith, 1998.

This is one of my favorite African folktales so far. It is an expansion of a traditional tale, “The Mosquito and the Ear.” In the early days when things came together and made the world, mosquito was looking for someone to marry. She was scorned by several of her love interests, and set about revenging herself on them. Her children carried on the tradition, with undesirable results for people. But if we’re going to get bit, then it may as well be for a good reason. :) Mosquito’s little songs of courtship and rage make for a fun read aloud.

Smith’s mosquito is cute and likeable. Even with her stinger, she looks somewhat like a bird with a long bill, striped legs, and wings not unlike a dragonfly. When she is rejected, she cries pitiful streams of tears.Smith’s illustrations are lively and filled with movement.

Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears by Verna Aardema. Illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975.

This is one of the first illustrated African folktales that I heard of. I’ve known of it for years, but I’d never read it until now. In this tale with cumulative elements, chatty mosquito annoys an iguana with a silly statement about yams. The iguana puts sticks in his ears rather than listen to her nonsense. This leads a python to believe he is being snubbed when iguana ignores the snake’s good morning greeting. Unfortunately, this brings about a disastrous chain reaction involving the other animals, and leads to mosquito’s permanent unpopularity.

The Dillion’s won the Caldecott award for this title and also Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions (Picture Puffin Books) by Margaret Musgrove. I am a big fan of their art and I think that they just get more and more spectacular with time. If you are unfamiliar with them take a look at Pish, Posh, Said Hieronymus Bosch or The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Nancy Willard, or The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. The pictures for this book use watercolors applied with airbrush, pastels and india ink. Kids will laugh at the ridiculous iguana with the plugged ears, grieve with the brokenhearted mother owl and enjoy looking at the increasingly angry and toothy animals as they get to the heart of the problem.

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