Thursday, June 9, 2011
Imani in the Belly
Imani In The Belly by Deborah M. Newton Chocolate. Illus. by Alex Boies, 1994.
In this retelling of a Swahili folktale, Imani’s children are swallowed up by Simba, the King of Beasts, and she must have faith enough to reclaim them. Every day wild animals race through her village and one afternoon when she returns from the marketplace, she finds that her children are gone. Grieving, she falls asleep, but her mother comes to her in a dream and tells her to have faith and go after the beast. She outfits herself with supplies and goes out to save her family and her village. With support from the villagers and belief in herself, she does just that.
The vivid colors and simple shapes of Boies’ cut-paper illustrations make striking artwork. The layouts are obviously carefully planned for best effect. Palm trees of purple, hot pink and bright green seem to pop off the pages. The cutouts add drama to the story, such as the black silhouette of Imani’s face and her wagging finger as she warns her children, a lavender outline of her floating mother providing comfort as Imani cries streams of soft green tears and incomplete shapes representing the villagers caught inside Simba. Seemingly disembodied eyes follow Imani as she heads through the jungle toward the large black lion. An especially vibrant picture shows Imani climbing out of Simba’s stomach as the villagers cheer her on in lettering that reads, “Faith be to Imani”.