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Why Monkeys Live in Trees
Mama, Riouf; Andy Jones (illus.) Why Monkeys Live in Trees. Willimantic, CT : Curbstone Press, 2006. $12.95 (pap), ISBN Paper 1931896216.

Note: Come and hear my story -- Blessed are the storytellers, for they are the keepers of the word -- Why monkeys live in trees -- Why the sun shines by day and the moon by night -- Why bee makes honey and snake crawls on its belly -- How goat got out of trouble


Benin, formerly Dahomey, is in West Africa. It is a country rich in oral stories, passed on from generation to generation. Raouf Mama, a storyteller himself as well as a teacher and orator, draws on this rich tradition and includes stories from many of Benins indigenous groups. Mama is wise enough to include many types of stories in his collection, tricksters, fables, heroes, sacred stories and other types of stories, each with its own moral is included.

These tales are fit for both young and old. Mama retells them in a charming manner. He draws out the basic values of Benin people as they are expressed in these tales. He also reminds us of the role of the traditional storyteller in this region.Blessed are the storytellers, for to them God gave the gift of eloquence, That their words may go forth to the four corners of the earth. Charged with the fire of passion and the wisdom of the ages, Making the deaf to hear and the blind to see. Blessed are the storytellers, for in the magic circle of the storyteller's art We enter into the drama of the human heart. (2)

Among the stories he includes are "Why Monkeys Live in Trees," "Why Bee Makes Honey and Snake Crawls on Its Belly" and "The Most Delicious Food in the World." Each is a fine choice. Each reads well, especially out loud and provokes discussion among young children. These tales are meant to stay with one for life. I have many African friends who can retell similar stories and fit them to appropriate occasions. I recommend this book highly.

Copyright 2007 Africa Access All rights reserved.

Rating: HR Grade: E /M / H Type: Book

Reviewed by: Frank A. Salamone. Iona College and University of Phoenix

Subject: West Africa / Benin / Folklore / Folktales / Black author