Head, Body, Legs: A Story from Liberia
Paye, Won-Ldy & Lippert, Margaret H. ;
Julie Paschkis (illus.)
Head, Body, Legs: A Story from Liberia.
New York: Henry Holt, 2002. $16.95,
ISBN 9780805065701 / 0805065709 ISBN Paper 9780805078909 / 0805078908 .
Note: In this tale from the Dan people of Liberia, Head, Arms, Body, and Legs learn that they do better when they work together.
This Liberian tale is clever, humorous and accompanied by colorful illustrations. As described by the authors, this is a story from the Dan
people of northeastern Liberia, a small country on the west coast of Africa. Paye is a Liberian and a trained storyteller. Lippert is a
teacher who has collected and published many folk stories. These two have
collaborated on other stories.
This origin and teaching tale engages with the first words, "Long ago,
Head was all by himself" (p. 2). As it turns out, head, arms, legs, and
body were not together and could not accomplish basic tasks. For example,
head met arms when he was trying to eat cherries from a tree. When they
attached themselves and worked together, they were able to pick and eat
the cherries. This is followed by body bouncing by and later legs joining
the others. Each encounter begins with humor and miscommunication and
ends with cooperation.
Liberian families use such tales to amuse children and to teach them about
cooperation. Each part of the body is important and needs to work with
the others to be successful in life, as families and communities must
This is a retelling, where authors and illustrators have creative license.
It is unfortunate, however, that they did not make the effort to be more
authentic. To my knowledge, there are no cherries in West Africa and using
a local fruit would have been just as easy. In addition, a note on the
back cover states that the illustrator was inspired "by the Asafo flags of
the Fante people from coastal Ghana." The art and artifacts of the Dan of
Liberia are well documented in African art literature and in museums and
could have complemented this story well.
Children will enjoy reading this book themselves, or listening as a read
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||Grade: P / E
Reviewed by: Jo Sullivan, ,
Subject: Black author / West Africa / Liberia / Dan / Folklore