Flying Tortoise: An Igbo Tale

Overview

This humorous traditional tale from the Igbo people of Nigeria features the trickster tortoise, Mbeku, and shows how the tortoise got his rough, checkered shell as a result of Mbeku's greediness and cunning.

Mbeku, the greedy tortoise, gets himself invited to the banquet in Skyland, but is trapped with no way to get back to Earth in this Igbo tale of why the tortoise has a checkered shell.

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Overview

This humorous traditional tale from the Igbo people of Nigeria features the trickster tortoise, Mbeku, and shows how the tortoise got his rough, checkered shell as a result of Mbeku's greediness and cunning.

Mbeku, the greedy tortoise, gets himself invited to the banquet in Skyland, but is trapped with no way to get back to Earth in this Igbo tale of why the tortoise has a checkered shell.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``Long, long ago, Mbeku the tortoise had a magnificent shell. It was so smooth and clear and shiny, it even glowed in the dark.'' This affable Nigerian folktale explains how the tortoise lost the sheen of his shell through his chicanery and greed. Mbeku tricks the birds into bringing him to Skyland, where he cheats them out of a feast. Enraged, they tear off his rigged-up wings and he must jump down to earth-and the birds continue to foil Mbeku when they have the lizard Ngwele build a pile of hard things for Mbeku to land on. Ngwele later mends Mbeku's shattered carapace, but its splotchy surface causes an embarrassed Mbeku to hide in his shell, a habit he retains to this day. Although Mbeku is a fine example of how not to behave, he is lovable as the smirky protagonist. Spurll, last paired with Mollel in Rhinos for Lunch and Elephants for Supper!, watercolors with a jungle-bright palette. She loads her compositions with uncommonly expressive animal characters, seen from comic angles, and, for additional atmoshere, she frames her work in beadwork-like borders. Ages 4-8. Aug.
Children's Literature - Dr. Judy Rowen
Mbeku the tortoise is a trickster who appears in many stories from the Igbo people of Nigeria. In this tale, he crashes a feast intended for the birds and eats all the food. He gets his comeuppance, but chuckles at the end. The illustrations are lavish, endowing Mbeku with just the right air of insolence and accurately depicting the other African creatures that share his world.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-This Nigerian trickster tale stars a cunning and vain tortoise who gets his comeuppance. Mbeku convinces the jungle birds to let him accompany them on a visit to the Skylanders so he can steal all of their food. When the birds protest that he cannot fly, he devises an elaborate set of wings and joins them on their trip. When the birds realize they've been duped, they exact a revenge that ends Mbeku's vanity. His previously perfect, smooth shell is cracked and scratched in the process, and henceforth, all others of his ilk follow suit. However, as with any good trickster, it is clear that Mbeku will be back to wreak havoc. The watercolor cartoons exaggerate realistic details and are full of bold tropical colors. Spurll is particularly adept at depicting motion and facial expressions. The campy style is saved from excess by the humor the pictures exude. The text is set off from the illustrations in cream-colored boxes, which makes it easier to read, but crowds the layout. Mollel consistently chooses descriptive vocabulary for his retelling-there's never a mere ``said'' when a ``gasped'' or a ``hissed'' will do. The combination of a lively narrative and vibrant illustrations result in a vivacious read-aloud choice.-Cheri Estes, Dorchester Road Regional Library, Charleston, SC
Janice Del Negro
ger for reading aloud. Mbeku the tortoise, the protagonist of this picture book for older readers, is a crafty one. He tricks the birds into making him wings from their feathers and then cheats them out of a feast provided by the Skylanders. His eventual comeuppance is delightfully predictable, and 20the explanation of how his shining shell became cracked (it was because of his greed) is satisfyingly concluded. As retold by Arusha Masai storyteller Mollel, the Ibo folktale is energetically paced. It's language is concrete and immediate, and the 20trickster tortoise's plotting is strongly underscored by a slyly 20expressive animal cast illustrated in pure, brilliant hues. A brief endnote describing storytelling and the place of Mbeku in Ibo culture is the only source provided.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395688458
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 8/15/1994
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD670L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.57 (w) x 10.81 (h) x 0.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Mollel is an Arusha Maasai who grew up in Tanzania and later at the University of Alberta. He is winner of Alberta's R. Ross Annet Award, and a Canadian Library Association Honour Book.

Tololwa Mollel is a Tanzanian-born storyteller, dramatist, and author of over fifteen children's books, including My Rows and Piles of Coins and Rhinos for Lunch and Elephants for Supper! Tololwa has won numerous awards and honors. For many years he has combined his storytelling, writing, and dramatic skills to work for children of all ages in Tanzania, Canada, and the United States.

Barbara Spurll is best known for her renderings of animals with attitude. Besides her award-winning work on the Emma series, Barbara's artwork enlivens many other books for children, including Mooki and the Too Proud Peacock, The Flying Tortoise, and Rhinos for Lunch and Elephants for Supper! Born in England, Barbara now lives in Toronto, Ontario.

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