Head, Body, Legs: A Story from Liberia

Overview

A magical retelling of a creation story from Liberia.

"Long ago, Head was all by himself.

He had no legs, no arms, no body.

He rolled everywhere."

Head is all alone. Body bounces along, Arms swing about, and Legs stand around. They can't do much by themselves, so they try to join together. But how? Should Head attach to the belly button? ...

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Overview

A magical retelling of a creation story from Liberia.

"Long ago, Head was all by himself.

He had no legs, no arms, no body.

He rolled everywhere."

Head is all alone. Body bounces along, Arms swing about, and Legs stand around. They can't do much by themselves, so they try to join together. But how? Should Head attach to the belly button? Should Legs stand on Arms? If only they can work together, everything will be perfect.

This vibrant, joyous retelling of a traditional Liberian creation story shows how much can be accomplished with a little cooperation.

In this tale from the Dan people of Liberia, Head, Arms, Body, and Legs learn that they do better when they work together.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"Long ago, Head was all by himself," begins this African creation story about how the human anatomy came to be. "He had no legs, no arms, no body. He rolled everywhere. All he could eat were things on the ground that he could reach with his tongue." Lippert and Paye previously collaborated on Why Leopard Has Spots: Dan Stories from Liberia, and the two here relate this traditional tale of cooperation from Paye's Dan tribe. Bordered in a distinctive lilac and orange pattern of oblong blocks and zig-zags, Paschkis's (Happy Adoption Day) gouache illustration shows "Head," a bold, ebony, free-floating shape resembling an African mask, against a deep blue background. When he attempts to shake down a cherry tree by rolling headlong into the trunk, Head meets Arms and convinces the appendages to form a partnership: "They... attached themselves to Head above the ears." Later, a lime-green wash provides vivid contrast as Head and Arms meet Body and attach themselves just above the sloping arch of his belly. A series of witty images depicts the group as they team up with Legs and negotiate their proper places. The action plays out against a background so saturated with citrus colors that the spreads resemble African fabrics in their beauty and fluidity. This attractive volume delivers its upbeat message with intelligence and humor. Ages 3-7. (Apr.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
The premise of this traditional Dan creation tale is absurd enough to offer chuckles. Head starts out alone, able only to roll. Two Arms appear. They can't see, but Head has eyes, and asks Arms to join him and pick up things to eat. The arrival of Body and Legs, attaching themselves wherever, add both abilities and complications, until they all fit properly together to make it "perfect." The imaginative tale finds a visual counterpart in Paschkis's almost geometric permutations. Body parts are undetailed, solid black set against roughly brushed backgrounds of varying colors. The text is set in small scratches of contrasting hues. The search for the right combination is lively and humorous, emphasizing the necessity of cooperation. 2002, Henry Holt,
— Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-This humorous story from Liberia's Dan people suggests that all must work together to succeed in life. A disembodied Head rolls along but can't get the cherries or mangoes he wants to eat until he discovers Arms. Arms attach to Head and they are nearly squashed by Body. As Head assembles various parts, each piece attaches itself in a strange way until finally, with the addition of Legs, Head can recompose to make a full person-and those mangoes are delicious. The story is enhanced by expressionistic paintings whose bright-colored backgrounds make the black-and-yellow figures stand out. Colors and patterns were inspired by flags from the Fante people of coastal Ghana. Perfect for flannelboard and silly enough to enchant young listeners, this is a good tale to add to the storytelling repertoire.-Susan Hepler, Burgundy Farm Country Day School, Alexandria, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805065701
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 5/1/2002
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.16 (w) x 10.38 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Meet the Author

Won-Ldy Paye was trained as a storyteller by his grandmother. He is from the Dan people of northeastern Liberia, and now lives in Seattle, Washington.

Margaret H. Lippert has taught in the United States, as well as in Guatemala and Tanzania, where she learned many stories. She lives on Mercer Island, Washington.

Julie Paschkis was inspired by the Asafo flags of the Fante people from coastal Ghana while illustrating this book. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

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