Why do tortoises have no hair? You’ve probably wondered where tortoises’s hair has gone. Here, in the illustration below, is where his problem started, with the scent of the frying mandazi. (East African doughnut.) You’ll see he has hair.
The tortoise tale is written and illustrated by Maxwell Abwamba. He graduated from high school in 2014 and now works for Vibrant Villages in Luanda, according to my friend Mark Bean, founder of Amesbury for Africa. Maxwell is also a freelance artist and illustrator in his western Kenyan town. He wrote the book in his local language, Lunyore. Through the digital African Storybook project, the book is available internationally both in Lunyore and English. Click on the title to read Why Tortoises Don’t Have Hair. Maxwell and I are messaging over Facebook as I write this, and he just wrote, “It was told to me by my grade one teacher. We used to learn mother tongue which was later removed out of Kenyan Syllabus.” These stories are working to keep local languages alive and also to give us on the other side of the world a chance to see the words in languages we may never have the chance to hear or know.
African Storybook brings to us “picture books in the languages of Africa.” There are stories in 111 languages, ones spoken in sub-Saharan countries. It’s a project of Saide, Enabling Successful Open Learning for All, located in Johannesburg. African Storybook also has an app that can be downloaded free to make a storybook.
Finally, here’s a recipe for mandazi, and if you smelled these light, flaky doughnuts frying, you’d almost understand why the tortoise would sacrifice his hair for them.
Allow this Persian cat to draw you to the work of Iranian children’s book author, Farhad Hassanzadeh and illustrator Ghazaleh Bigdelou. Iran, like the U.S., is fighting for its people suffering in the corona virus pandemic. In our global fight, I’m acknowledging and celebrating the art of picture books from book creators around the world. Hassanzadeh has just been shortlisted for the Hans Christian Anderson award for best children’s book creators in the world presented by IBBY, the International Board of Books for Young People. He is a deeply respected author in Iran but I couldn’t find his books snapped up by a U.S. publisher to bring them to us. I hope his making this shortlist could bring An Umbrella with White Butterflies to the U.S. Here’s one of Ghazaleh’s interior illustrations:
In respect for out connected world, in hard times and in beauty, I want to honor books for children in other countries of the world where children are also studying and reading at home like U.S. kids. It’s also International Children’s Book Day on April 2. But I’ll continue the whole month. We’ll take a tour of the world we’re so close to now. Some of the books are very silly because kids are so much more than the hard times. Take Professional Crocodile from Italy! It’s wordless! It’s by Giovanna Zoboli with pictures by Mariachiara Di Giorgio.
Professional Crocodile is the simple yet very complicated story of getting dressed in the morning and making the journey to work. For a crocodile.
Valerie Bolling‘s and Maine Diaz‘s Let’s Dance is a whirlwind of flying, stomping, spinning, leaping, somersaulting kids from around the globe showing moves from one of their country’s traditional dances. Diaz captures the pure joy of movement in her cartoon character’s whole bodies. An American breakdancer is upside down with excitement with the music and the fun of the dance. Bolling’s action rhymes will be fun for kids to sing out and play out while they dance! The characters dance flamenco in Spain, Kathak in India, Kuku in West African Guinea, long-sleeve dancing in China. One of my favorite illustrations is when the bright pages transition to a dramatic dark with the words “Counting sheep” while Diaz’s bevy of sheep give us a reprise of many of the dances featured in the story. There are step dancers, line dancers and some are singing their hearts out while, on the previous page, a little girl imagines as she falls into sleep.