Innocent Emechete,
Animal Stories Daddy Told Us
(AuthorHouse, 2010)

Animal Stories Daddy Told Us is a collection of various African animal fables. Every story is written to teach the morals demonstrated through the characters' actions and is accompanied by discussion questions. Innocent Emechete also includes an enlightening introduction to the significance of the oral tradition in African culture and the atmosphere in which people would be hearing these particular tales. In short, this is a well thought out, wonderful idea for a book.

Unfortunately, there are some issues with the execution of Animal Stories Daddy Told Us. First of all, much of the vocabulary Emechete uses is very advanced. As someone who's worked in the elementary school system, I know this would be a very difficult read for many. Second of all, Emechete frequently introduces Western idioms into the tales. Not only does this increase this book's reading difficulty, but it interferes with the cultural tone of these traditional stories. Third, there does not seem to be any faith in the readers' comprehension skills. Commentary spelling out and preaching on the morals involved in the tales is interjected in every story, particularly those in the first two-thirds of the book. While having question prompts to point out the lessons of a fable is a good idea, going on about the ethical implications during the story is unnecessary. The tales themselves remain important because they so clearly demonstrate the morals while remaining entertaining. This strain of commentary makes the stories far less enjoyable. Moreover, having actually taught one of these fables to elementary children, they definitely can comprehend the morals without them being turned into sermons.

Emechete's motives and design for this work remains admirable. It includes 16 lively tales ranging from "Who Will Bell the Cat?" to "Chaos in the Animal Kingdom" that include a great deal of insight, mostly centered around the character of Mazi Mbe. I just wish these tales had been kept simpler.

[ visit the author's website ]

book review by
Whitney Mallenby

11 June 2011

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