Genre: Non-European Folktales
Aardema, Verna. The Lonely Lioness and the Ostrich Chicks. Illus. by Yumi Heo. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.
CLCD Horn Book Guide: 1996 Nonfiction Rating 2, Superior, well above average.
CLCD, Best Books: Children's Literature Choice List, 1997 ; Children's Literature; United States
While sitting in a tree, a lion observes a mother ostrich walking along the road with her four chicks. In an attempt to rid her life of loneliness, the lioness plots to take one of the ostrich's chicks. While the ostrich is distracted by a grasshopper, the lioness snatches all four of her chicks off the ground. After calming the chicks down, the lioness acts as their mother and the chicks forget about their real ostrich mother. Once the ostrich realizes what the lioness has done, she tries to get other animals to help her rescue her chicks. After several animals decline, the ostrich comes across a mongoose who agrees to help her. The mongoose makes a rude comment to the lioness and, as a result, the lioness is angered and tries to attach the mongoose. Meanwhile, the ostrich gathers her chicks and they all walk home together, without the lioness.
The illustrator does a fantastic job conveying the feelings of the characters. The lioness is shown sitting in a tree overlooking the ostrich and her children. This gives off a sad and lonely vibe and makes the reader understand how the lioness is feeling and why she chooses to steal the ostrich's chicks and call them her own. The reader is also able to get a sense of where the story is taking place by observing the colors used by the illustrator in his pictures. The colors chosen bring the story to life and make the setting of an African village quite convincing. Before I realized this book was an African folktale, I thought the setting could be an African country. Most of the pictures are the same colors (mainly shades of yellow and brown), but that does not take away from the story or illustrations in general. The pictures compliment the story itself very nicely and make the story more enjoyable. The way the author set-up her book is very effective, especially for beginner readers. There are pictures on every page and words on every other page. This allows children to read the sentences, then take a break and view the pictures. Children in grades K-3 would enjoy this African tale and I would recommend it to elementary school teachers.