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Mee An and the Magic Serpent
Diakite, Baba Wague; Baba Wague Diakite (illus.) Mee An and the Magic Serpent. Toronto: Groundwood / House of Anansi, 2007. $16.95, ISBN 0888997191 ; 978-0888997197 .

Note: Beautiful but vain Mee-Ann is looking for a husband. Ignoring bad omens she selects a handsome stranger.


In Diakité's charming retelling of a Sahelian folktale, the beautiful but vain protagonist is taught a valuable lesson about the difference between appearance and essence. Along the way, her story informs the reader about the origin and import of certain familiar characteristics of her natural world: why snakes live in rivers, why herons are white, and why these white birds may frequently be seen perched on the backs of cattle along riverbanks.

Diakité has made the satisfying decision to offer many details of rural Malian life to the eager and inquisitive young reader, but not to insist. The rich and delightful illustrations by the author are bursting with information about plants and animals, architecture, dress, customs, and domestic and industrial techniques of Diakité's native region of Mali (with the somewhat whimsical inclusion of a zebra, a giraffe, and an elephant in the penultimate panel). But the simple, engaging narrative is uncluttered with ethnographic exposition. In harmony with this strategy, the text includes the original Bamana for two songs that feature in the tale, along with their translations. While most English-language readers will be unable to render the lilting music of the original language, this delight is happily there for the seeker to discover.

Rating: R Grade: P Type: Book

Reviewed by: Molly Roth, OIC International

Subject: West Africa / Mali / Folklore / Folktales / African author