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A BAOBAB IS BIG (article first published : 2004-09-25)

A Baobab is Big is an utterly enchanting series of stories in verse for young people which educate while they entertain. Illustrated and written by Jacqui Taylor, it is purely African in its approach, using indigenous words and telling stories of monster mangos, big bugs, aloes, loerie birds and springbok.

The main story deals with the massive baobab and the opening rhyme states disarmingly: “A baobab is big,/It is a kind of tree./It only grows in Africa,/It is much bigger than me.” It goes on to mention that the baobab looks as if it’s growing upside down and the legend goes that the Almighty ripped up the baobab in an angry fit “and misplanted it”!

Each page is a delight with a full colour page illustration and a smaller image accompanying the verse. My favourite is the little boy storyteller who has decided to make the hollow of a baobab his own “Home Sweet Home”.

The scenario changes to a wide-open grassy field where little Lilith is dozing away until she is frightened by the “Go away” sound of the Loerie bird. It takes mum to explain that the bird is simply telling his friends to run away from predators. Another delicious scene is in a bathroom where Marty shares his monster mango with a whole bunch of friends! A little girl spots a daddy-long-legs carrying eggs and immediately assumes that it’s really a mum-long-legs!

Then there’s Percy the python who sleeps quite happily coiled up in a plump pillow in a potjie pot until he gets too big and they have to buy him a king-sized pot. Another little character is Kallie who joins a meerkat gang in the Kalahari and all goes well until her little furry friends offer her a scorpion for dinner and she decides she needs her Mum and egg and chips!

The book closes with a section of Fascinating Facts on subjects featured in the book. A little too advanced for the very young readers, it will aid parents or older readers to expand on the stories for their avid listeners.

Jacqui Taylor worked for a number of years as an illustrator for advertising agencies in London and in Zimbabwe. While living in Hong Kong, she created A Hong Kong ABC Book for her son Christopher and this eventually led to the popular An African ABC, also published by Struik Publishers. All Jacqui’s verses are “tried and tested” on her own children. She currently runs her own designing company, Fraser Design, in Harare, Zimbabwe.

A Baobab is Big is sturdily bound and can withstand much handling and constant reading. It is sure to become a treasure in many families and can be handed down to the next generation. Christmas is coming up! It would make a great gift.

A Baobab is Big is published by Struik in hardcover and retails for R99.95. – Caroline Smart




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