Capturing the essence of oral storytelling from the West African Republic of Benin, Raouf Mama shares 16 folktales from a wide range of Beninese ethnic groups. The collection includes not only “trickster tales” such as “Why Monkeys Live in Trees” but also sacred tales such as “The Magic of Love.” They are fables of a sort, with clear morals that children can easily understand. In all, virtue is rewarded, while vice is penalized.
The stories include a wide variety of interesting characters – animals, princes and princesses, wise old men and naughty boys, mothers, fathers, kings and queens. In addition, many characters represent inanimate objects or concepts such as Truth and Lie, and Sun and Moon. Although the stories are different, many have recurring themes that characterize the beliefs of the people. In many of the stories, names are critically important in describing a person’s character. Names also represent values, such as Truth and Lie, inanimate objects, such as Sun and Moon,
Read aloud, these relatively short stories from the West African Republic of Benin captivate the listener. What is more, the drawings by Andy Jones give the audience an image to remember. Storytelling is an important part of every country’s history. We learn how our cultures, though different, are also similar in so many different ways.
Author: Raouf Mama
Illustrator: Andy Jones
Publisher: Curbstone Press, 2006
Reviewer: Kristine Wildner, Holy Apostles School, New Berlin, WI