CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 7. . . .October 20, 2017
From the Heart of Africa: A Book of Wisdom.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2017.
40 pp., hardcover & e-book, $21.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-77049-719-1 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-77049-720-2 (e-book).
Aphorisms and apothegms-Juvenile literature.
Proverbs, African-Juvenile literature.
Conduct of life-Quotations, maxims, etc.-Juvenile literature.
Grades 1 and up / Ages 6 and up.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.
Googling the word “aphorism” provides the following definition: “a pithy observation that contains a general truth, such as, ‘if it ain't broke, don't fix it’.”
This review begins with the above definition because, as Eric Walters explains, “This book is a collection of aphorisms that I’ve heard from African friends and colleagues over the time that I’ve spent [in Africa].”
The collection contains 15 aphorisms whose origins are in Africa, with only a couple of them perhaps being already familiar to the book’s readers. Each aphorism is treated in a pair of facing pages with one page containing the aphorism presented in very large print. Further text, in much smaller print, provides the aphorism’s origin and its meaning, the latter offered in child-friendly language. As to the specific geographic origins, Walters explains: “Because aphorisms are an oral tradition, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where they came from....[b]ut we’ve done our best to track down where they came from....”
Traveling is learning.
ORIGIN: KIKUYU PEOPLE, KENYA
MEANING: There is so much to learn from other people and other cultures! But you don’t need to leave home to learn about others – get to know people in your neighborhood who are different from you and you’ll see the world from a new perspective. You can learn from their travels!
Each aphorism is accompanied by a full-page illustration that faces the text. In the case of the above aphorism, the artwork portrays someone in a space suit high above Earth. Because each of the aphorisms is illustrated by a different illustrator, readers will encounter a delightful variety of styles.
The book’s final pair of facing pages repeat smaller versions of the book’s illustrations, albeit not in the order in which they originally appeared. Each is accompanied by a text box that briefly identifies its creator and provides some information about her/him. For instance, Toby Newsome produced the illustration that accompanies the aphorism “No one tests the depth of the water with both feet”, and his text box reads: “Toby Newsome lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa. He designs and illustrates, and he works in mixed media. He plays guitar, but strictly for relaxation purposes!”
Walters, a recipient of the Order of Canada, has co-founded an organization called Creation of Hope (www.creationofhope.com) in Kenya, which, among other activities, operates an orphanage. A portion of Walters’ royalties from this book will be donated to the Kenyan orphans, with Penguin Random House Canada matching that amount.
While Walters has offered his interpretation of the aphorisms’ meanings, readers will undoubtedly want to proffer their own. Though the publisher recommends From the Heart of Africa as being a book for Grades 1-4/Ages 6-9, its contents obviously speak to a much wider audience, including adults.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB, where he tries to remember that “Rain does not fall on one roof alone”.
© CM Association
University of Manitoba
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