Africa, as a continent, is known to advocate and instill good morals and behaviours in the lives of young children. A Treasury of African Folktales (Manila Publications Company, Abuja; 2016) comprises different moral stories, compiled by three different authors. The book uses animal, trickster stories and pictorials to instruct and keep the attention of young readers. The book does not fall short of its main purpose, which is to instil good character in youngsters.
A Treasury of African Folktales, an anthology of children’s stories, comprises three distinct stories written by different writers: Ikeogu Oke, Helon Habila and Wale Okediran. The first story, ‘The Lion and the Monkey’ is written by Ikeogu Oke, the founding editor of the African Story Time Series. His poetry, short fiction, and children stories have since 1988 appeared in various publications both in Nigeria and abroad.
The second story, titled ‘The Spider and the Drummer’, is written by Helon Habila, an associate professor of creative writing at George Mason University, U.S. His novels, poems, and short stories have won many awards, including the Commonwealth Prize for the Best First Novel (African section), the Caine Prize, and the most recent, Windham-Campbell prize.
‘A wrongful Gratitude’ is the third story, written by Wale Okediran. He was the national president of Association of Nigerian Authors.
The first story by Oke, ‘The Lion and the Monkey,’ embodies the principle of ‘one good turn deserves another.’ After the monkey has reluctantly helped the lion out of a pit, the lion still turns around and tries to eat him up, but an old woman saves the monkey, which leaves the lion hungry and angry.
The second story titled ‘The Spider and the Drummer’ is one that teaches the repercussion of greed and laziness. The spider, due to his greedy and lazy nature, refuses to pay what he owed people. On his day of judgment, his inability to resist music leads to his being caught and sanctioned. The story is written by Helon Habila.
‘A wrongful Gratitude’ is the third story, written by Wale Okediran.
Each story in A Treasury of African Folktales comes with a special song that can be learnt and sung, as the authors take time to insert the music scores at the back pages of the book. The book also has a glossary for words that may seem unfamiliar or difficult for its young readers. To ensure the intended morals are derived from the stories, there is a ‘question and tasks’ section included at the end of the book. Most of the questions asked in this section are easy but at the same time, demand the readers to do some inquiry or research. A question like ‘what is a monkey called in your dialect,’ for example, would make the reader appreciate the uniqueness of his or /her individual dialects.
The book, which focuses mainly on children, has been written in a very simply and precise format. The prints are bold and easy to read and the stories are not lengthy. Recognising the age group of the audience, the authors refrain from using complicated words. A Treasury of African Folktale Volume 1 is a highly recommended book for growing children as it instills good behaviour and exposes them to the African world of good morals.