Title: The Magic Bojabi Tree
Author: Diane Hofmeyr
Illustrator: Piet Grobler
Publisher: Frances Lincoln
Publication date: 4th April 2013
I first heard Dianne Hofmeyr perform this story at a retreat organised by the Scattered Authors’ Society last autumn and I fell in love with it right away. It’s a classic tree-of-life folktale that has different variants around the African content. Dianne’s witty version is based on the one from Gabon, and it’s a treat to read aloud to children, with lots of opportunity for joining in.
The plot is beguilingly simple, giving the author a lot of scope for wordplay and repetition. The animals in the African jungle are starving for some nice, juicy fruit. They stumble across a magical tree bearing luscious mango-melon-pomegranates. But guarding it is a python who will only let them taste the fruit if they can guess the tree’s name. Only one creature in the world knows the magic word, the scary lion, the king of the jungle. e lives far away across the hot arid plains. Who’s going to venture across them to ask him and will they remember the magic word long enough to depose the python?
Children listening to the story will have lots of fun trying to guess which of the animals is going to get the name right and pointing out the mistakes they make. The story ends with a simple song that readers and listeners can easily learn and sing out loud. Illustrated by Piet Grobler in sun-splashed colours, this is a book that you will want to return to again and again.
Other picture book reviews you might like:
I Am Cat – by Jackie Morris
Katie and the Starry Night – by James Mayhew