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*From Lands of the Night* by Tololwa M. Mollel, illustrated by Darrel McCalla
From Lands of the Night
by Tololwa M. Mollel, illustrated by Darrel McCalla
Ages 6-9 32 pages Red Deer Press January 2014 Hardcover    

Tolowa M. Mollel’s richly-illustrated details the circumstances surrounding a sick child named Samson and the lengths to which his family goes to make him better. After they visit a healer, they are told by the healer that the only way to save Samson is to have a joyful celebration to honor the ancestors. They do. They create a feast, with many kinds of foods, musical instruments, and much dancing. Soon, the ancestors appear in ancestral robes, and dreadlocked-braided angels also arrive. At last, Mola--God--appears. And Samson’s life is saved.

So much is going on in this little picture book: the healing power of joy, a dying child and the desperate need to save him, honoring the ancestors, questions of life and death, the respectful and celebratory depiction of African culture. Some readers may like some parts of it, some others. And some may like everything in the book.

The Tanzanian author writes in his notes: “Christianity and Islam normally discourage belief in the powers of ancestors to help the living. But many Christians and Moslems, and people who are neither, still hold this belief…such a mix has always fascinated me.” This book feels more pagan than theologically-mixed.

There is a difference between ancestor worship, ancestor honoring, and even the Christian idea of the saints and the cloud of witness. Christianity has become part of most countries in the world and often merges with the culture and folklore of those nations and ethnic groups.

Also, the idea of an intermediary between God and Man might be bothersome to some, especially if they are evangelical Christians. And some religious people might have a problem with the name given to the God, even if it is the same Creator God being referred to. There is also the notion that a god would need to rest and does not like to be bothered by music; this would be problematical for those who believe in the Judeo-Christian God or in the Moslem God.

The first-person story feels personal, like a memoir, although the main character does feel a bigt distance. There is also a sense of the holy or the numinous. The illustrations are bright and vibrant acrylic and/or watercolor. The vocabulary is full of many new words, but for the most part most of the words in the book will be recognizable by any child over five.

This picture book would work well in a secular, pagan, or progressive Christian parent or school setting. It would also be good for cultural studies or for African-American classrooms.

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  Carole McDonnell/2015 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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