Reading the World Challenge – Update #4

PaperTigers Reading the World ChallengeI’m a bit behind on posting the updates of our Reading the World Challenge but we are getting there…

Together we read The Amazing Tree by John Kilaka (North-South Books, 2009). It had captured my imagination when we met John at the Bologna Book Fair and, indeed, we all enjoyed this fable, which demands a certain amount of audience participation. The story is about how the animals are hungry and there’s only one tree that has fruit on it – but the animals can’t get at the fruit. Rabbit has what they all agree is an “excellent idea”, to go and ask wise Tortoise. Only, they won’t let her go as she’s too small. A succession of delegates chosen from among the larger animals fails to return with the simple answer that wise tortoise gives them, and in the end, Rabbit herself goes and is, of course, successful. We absolutely agreed that they should have managed the task, which was to “call the tree by its name” – but we could also empathise with the animals as we had some difficulty in remembering the Kiswahili name ourselves, although we certainly had it off pat by the end of the story.

The Amazing Tree by John Kilaka (North-South Books, 2009) John Kilaka originally collected the story from the Fipa tribe of southwest Tanzania and translated it into Kiswahili; his son Kilaka Kenny then translated it into English, ready to be adapted by North-South books. The story is narrated with verve and a freshness about the dialogue that make it a great readaloud. However, what really had us riveted were the illustrations. John Kilaka has developed his own style that combines bright colors and traditional patterns. The animals were intriguing not just because they were dressed in clothes, but because the shapes under the clothes were distinctly anthropomorphic, so that the illustrations make you do a double-take. We enjoyed John Kilaka’s thought-provoking afterword too, where he talks about “Collecting African Stories”.

Little Brother (9½) read Running Wild by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Sarah Young (HarperCollins, 2009):

Running Wild by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Sarah Young (HareperCollins, 2009) When Will’s father dies, his grandmother thinks he and his mother need a holiday so they go to Indonesia for Christmas, where his mother’s family comes from. But it’s 2004, and on Boxing Day the Tsunami struck. Oona, an elephant, stampeded up the beach into the jungle away from the tsunami’s dangers into the jungle’s with Will on her back. With only Oona to help him, Will must survive in the jungle, where he saves some orangutans from hunters who also capture him, and meets other jungle animals: not all of them ones you’d like to encounter. Will Will survive?

Running Wild is an excellent book. I loved the story and I liked the idea of Will being able to communicate with Oona, as they seem to understand each other. I thought that when the odd picture turned up, the style suited the story and I liked how they were simple but detailed at the same time. Michael Morpurgo makes what living in the jungle would do to you very lifelike. There are some moments which are essential in the plot, which show why so many animals are endangered by human causes.

And Older Brother (just turned 12) read Hazel EdwardsAntarctica’s Frozen Chosen (which she talks about in her interview with PaperTigers):

Antarctica's Frozen Chosen by Hazel Edwards (Lothian Books, 2003)Antarctica’s Frozen Chosen is about a man called Kyle who goes to Antarctica to research eles (elephant seals) on an Australian base. Actually, the ship gets stuck in ice so they never get there. They see some poachers who are after rare fish to sell and then some other bad things start happening – but that’s for you to find out…

I really enjoyed Antarctica’s Frozen Chosen because although I found it quite hard going at the beginning and I didn’t think I was going to like it, I soon got into it and by the end, I couldn’t put it down.

One Response to “Reading the World Challenge – Update #4”

  1. Corinne Robson Says:

    Marj -

    The International Youth Library in Munich will be holding an exhibit of John Kilaka’s work from Nov 8, 2010 to the end of February 2011. Here’s the info from their site (

    The fabulous world of John Kilaka, Pictures and drawings by a Tanzanian artist

    The painter, illustrator and author John Kilaka from Tanzania collects stories. He travels round the countryside on foot or by bicycle and writes down the tales the villagers tell him. They are traditional African animal fables, which deal with friendship, conflict and reconciliation and the solidarity of the community. John Kilaka illustrates the stories with powerful, vibrant pictures in the Tanzanian Tingatinga style.

    They are decorative, colourful, witty and charmingly told, and their naive force and cultural remoteness. makes them particularly appealing. The exhibition shows a selection of the original illustrations for the picture books “Frische Fische” (Fresh Fish), “Gute Freunde” (True Friends) and “Der wunderbare Baum” (The Amazing Tree). Free work and drawings are shown in addition to the illustrations painted on the large screens.

    John Kilaka will be present!