Subira, Subira (reviewed with Fly, Eagle, Fly
Mollel, Tololwa ;
Linda Saport (illus.)
Subira, Subira (reviewed with Fly, Eagle, Fly.
New York: Clarion, 2000. $15.00,
ISBN 0-395-91809-XISBN Paper 0618 68926 5.
Note: Set in contemporary Tanzania, this variation on a traditional tale describes how a young girl learns a lesson in patience when a spirit woman sends her to get three whiskers from a lion.
Fly, Eagle, Fly and Subira Subira 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.
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Reviewed by: Patricia Kuntz, Indiana Univerisity
Subject: Black author / Tanzania / East Africa / Folklore / CABA Honor