Monday, May 3, 2010

On a Road in Africa - Kim Doner

Tricycle Press, 2008
A portion of the proceeds go directly to the animal orpahange
40 pages
Rating: 3.5
Endpapers: Illustration of the road in Africa with a rhino, a tree with a sisal bag full of pineapple hanging on it, and many Kenyan words

This particular road in Africa is in Kenya. The line "on a road in Africa, on a road in Africa" is repeated frequently. This would be like saying, "on a road in Europe" or "on a road in Asia." Would we not say "on a road in the Netherlands" or "on a road in Japan" instead? I do wish it would have been "On a road in Kenya, on a road in Kenya." Oh well.

The story is about a woman who runs an animal orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya. She has many volunteers and apparently hits the road frequently to gather supplies for her orphans. Sometimes they are donated, sometimes they are given inexpensively. It looks to be long, hard work. The orphans are lions and cheetahs, warthogs and buffalo, monkeys and mongoose.....

Based on the true story of Chryssee Perry Martin, who has lived in Kenya for over thirty years, we get a wonderful glimpse at the road around and about Nairobi (which is Kenya's capital). It is diverse, and the author's illustrations are colorful, fill the page from edge to edge, and show lots of information. The illustrations are the strong suit of this book. The last four pages contain information and photographs of the "real" Mama O, Ms. Martin.

I read the book through once and had very little idea of what was really happening. Then I read the book flap and the afterward/s. When I then reread the book, I understood what the author was doing. If I were to read this aloud, especially to my class, I would prepare the kids for what was to come, giving information and details so they'd understand the verse of the story. As I reading teacher I know how important prior knowledge is, and that's what this story lacks.

"Baskets empty on the seat
Must be filled with things to eat.
Colored sisal, rought to feel,
Woven tightly, holds a meal.
On a road in Africa,
On a road in Africa.
Where you gonna go, Mama O, Mama O?
Where you gonna go, Mama O?"

Without prior knowledge, all you say is, "what the heck is this Mama O business? Read the flap and the afterward/s first.

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