Fly Eagle Fly ! An African Tale
Gregorowski, Christopher, retel.;
Fly Eagle Fly ! An African Tale.
New York: Margaret K. McElderry, 2000. $16.00,
Note: A farmer finds an eagle and raises it to behave like a chicken, until a friend helps the eagle learn to find its rightful place in the sky.
These two folktales (Mollel, Tololwa. Surira, Subira ;Fly, Eagle, Fly) have many features in common. For each book, the
authors have adapted a didactic oral narrative to a situation of a
particular community. For example in "Subira Subira," Tololwa Mollel, a
Tanzanian/American of Maasi heritage, has adapted an international theme
to a Tanzanian context. He describes how an adolescent girl deals with
babysitting her uncooperative younger brother. In this single-parent
family, Tatu is responsible for seeing that Maulidi arrives at school on
time and does not cause trouble after school. Her brother is very
mischievous and perhaps is acting out his sadness at the loss of his
mother. After obtaining advice from a "senior citizen"/elder, Tatu
attempts to complete the elder's recommendation. Tatu has three
opportunities to pluck three whiskers from a lion. To build courage, she
sings a song which has a calming effect on the lion and her brother. The
purpose of this activity is to instill patience in Tatu so that she can
better deal with her brother until their father returns from work.
In this picture book, the illustrator, Linda Saport, has used vibrant
color. The illustrations depict a contemporary village in Tanzania in a
surrealistic style. The colors are warm like an equitorial sun and
complement the story of growing security, protection, and friendship.
The song printed in the back with the music score enable North American
students to sing at the appropriate places. In addition, the glossary
helps to ensure that readers pronounce the Swahili correctly.
For the second book, two South Africans Christopher Gregorowski and Niki
Daly have collaborated to revive "Fly, Eagle, Fly: An African Tale." This
story is an adaptation from a tale told by a visiting Ghanaian educator.
In the 1920, James Aggrey* stated that Africans were like eagles which
soar and not like chickens which peck the ground for leftovers.
Gregoroswki has set this "animal" tale into contemporary Transkei where
he depicts the Xhosa. The story is about a farmer who has lost a calf in
a storm. While searching for the calf, he finds a baby eagle and decides
to nurture it back to health with his chickens. As an honorary chicken,
the eagle does everything that the chickens do. Finally, a friend
announces that this behavior is inappropriate. The friend helps the eagle
to fly and become the great bird that it was created to be.
Niki Daly is a popular illustrator of children's books about South Africa.
Daly provides details and humor in his illustrations of village life.
Both the text and the illustrations inspire hope for adult and young
readers. The book is dedicated to the children of South Africa. In 1982,
Daly illustrate an earlier publication of this story. Because of the
symbolism of the story, the book has been republished through a U.S.
publisher. To its credit, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu has written a
foreword which attests to the fact that this edition is designed not only
for a South African but also an international readership.
Both books contain a response -- Mollel's is a Swahili song and
Gregorowski's is a chant. The symbolism is inspiring -- new Africans
need to take responsibility for their actions. The settings of both books
are in rural communities and have to do with the interactions of humans
with animals and humans with humans. In each book, behavior of one person
or animal was modified by the patient, marked actions of an other. In
order to make the necessary behavior changes, the main character had to
reflect about the needs of others.
Copyright Africa Access
||Grade: P / E
Reviewed by: Patricia Kuntz, Indiana University