Books at Bedtime: Silly Mammo – an Ethiopian folktale

Silly Mammo, by Yohannes Gebregeorgis, illustrated by Bogale BelachewFollowing on from our meeting with librarians-turned-publisher in Bologna, I recently discovered Silly Mammo by Yohannes Gebregeorgis (African Sun Press, 2002), the first ever bilingual English/Amharic book. It’s the story of a boy who keeps making mistakes by following instructions given in hindsight – starting with his mother telling him to put his earnings into his pocket so he doesn’t lose them (ie coins)… and then he is paid with a bottle of milk, which he then pours into his pockets… and so the story progresses: until he wins the hand of a beautiful girl by making her laugh. It’s a delightful story, which will make young listeners laugh aloud.

The illustrations are by Bogale Belachew, an Ethiopian artist, who has given the story a contemporary setting. This reflects the books initial raison d’être, which was to provide Ethiopian children with a story in their own language from their own culture.

“Yohannes emigrated to the United States half a lifetime ago. He became an American citizen. But he came back, giving up a comfortable life as a children’s librarian in San Francisco, because it bothered him that while Ethiopian kids may go to school, they have no books.”

He founded a mobile library with a difference in Awassa, Ethiopia: drawn by donkeys; and has then gone on to publish books for children to read in local languages. Silly Mammo was the first of these.

The book is available from Silver Chicks, with all proceeds going to EthiopiaReads (check out their blog too), also founded by Yohannes.

Read this article (where my quotation above comes from) and watch this video – the faces of the children say it all!

5 Responses to “Books at Bedtime: Silly Mammo – an Ethiopian folktale”

  1. diane Says:

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    Keep up the interesting posts.

  2. Marjorie Says:

    Thanks, Diane, for saying hello, and for your lovely comments. Looking at your blog just now, I can see I’ll be visiting often – I especially like your recent tapas post.

  3. Word Lily Says:

    What a fun story (and book)!

  4. Corinne Robson Says:

    Marjorie –

    This post reminded me of the book My Librarian Is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World by Margriet Ruurs. A great read for kids and parents!

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