Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Picture Books
Mee-An and the Magic Serpent

Mee-An and the Magic Serpent

Spring 2007 Picture Books
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Baba Wagué Diakité
Illustrator: Baba Wagué Diakité
ISBN: 978-0-88899-719-7
Hardcover Price: $16.95
From vibrant market scenes to sun-seared landscapes, Diakité's richly colored, yellow bordered illustrations form the perfect backdrop for this retelling of a traditional African folktale. The opening proverb written in both English and Bambara (the language spoken by six million residents of Mali) sets the stage as does the long-billed black heron that flies overhead. Woven into the text are bilingual songs which will help transport young inhabitants of the United States to a very different and magical world. Vain older sister, Mee-An, is searching for the perfect husband but cannot abide a man with “a single scratch, scar or blemish on any part of his body.” Assa, Mee-An's sensible and helpful younger sister, decides to cut short the process by turning herself into a fly and seeking far and wide for just such a mate. A powerful serpent who hears of the quest turns himself into the desired paragon and Mee-An, despite warnings from relatives and evil omens in nature, chooses him for her partner. Snakes, however, do not make the best of folktales from all parts of the world have pointed out over the ages. Part moral lesson and part pourquoi tale, this satisfying rendition, told in the rhythms of oral storytelling, is perfectly matched by the handsome illustrations that ground it firmly in its place of origin.
Kristi Elle Jemtegaard   ©2007 Parents' Choice
Kristi Elle Jemtegaard is the Coordinator of Youth Services for the Arlington Public Library system. She has taught courses on children’s and young adult literature at the Catholic University of America and the University of Virginia. She has served on both the Newbery and Caldecott Award Committees of the American Library Association and has chaired the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee and the May Hill Arbuthnot Award Committee. She is a member and past president of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington DC and has chaired the Washington Post–Book Guild Nonfiction Award Committee. She is a founding member of Capitol Choices, an organization of professionals in the field of children’s literature in the greater Washington DC area. She regularly reviews children’s literature and audio productions for a variety of national publications.

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