Master Man: A Tall Tale of Nigeria


Shadusa was STRONG. When he gathered firewood, he hauled twice as much as anyone else. When he hunted, he carried home two antelopes at once.

One day he said to his wife, Shettu, "Just look at these muscles. I must be the STRONGEST man in the world. From now on, just call me Master Man...

"Quit your foolish boasting," Shettu replied. "No matter how strong you are, there will always be someone stronger. And someday you may meet him!"

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Shadusa was STRONG. When he gathered firewood, he hauled twice as much as anyone else. When he hunted, he carried home two antelopes at once.

One day he said to his wife, Shettu, "Just look at these muscles. I must be the STRONGEST man in the world. From now on, just call me Master Man...

"Quit your foolish boasting," Shettu replied. "No matter how strong you are, there will always be someone stronger. And someday you may meet him!"

In this traditional Hausa tale of superheroes, Shadusa must learn a lesson harder than his own muscles. Is he the ultimate Master Man?

A boastful strong man learns a lesson harder than his muscles when he encounters one of Nigeria's superheroes in this Hausa tale which explains the origin of thunder.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Our Review
A Nigerian folktale comes to life in this dynamite book from storyteller Aaron Shepard. Feats of epic strength and one man's overconfidence fill this tale with humor, a lesson in hubris, and an imaginative explanation for thunder.

We are introduced to Shadusa, a very strong man who can easily carry two antelope on his back and haul stacks of firewood with ease. Boasting of his greatness, he declares himself the Master Man, the strongest in the world, ignoring his wife Shettu's advice that there will always be someone stronger and that Shadusa might just meet him one day. The next day, Shettu stops by a well for water. The bucket is stuck at the bottom of the shaft, and after several attempts to free it, she gives up. A woman passing by gives it a try, also to no avail, then asks her young baby to give a tug. With a quick pull from the child, the bucket comes flying up. Shettu can hardly believe the child's strength, but the woman explains that the baby's father is known as Master Man.

When Shadusa hears that someone else has claimed his self-awarded title, he sets out for the well and runs into the mother-son duo from the day before. Eager to meet his rival, he returns with the woman to her house. When he feels the ground shake and sees a monster of a man trundling towards him, the boastful Shadusa knows he has more than met his match. Running away, Shadusa stumbles over a huge pile of elephant bones; the enormous stranger overtakes him, proclaiming that he is the true Master Man. The two begin the brawl of a lifetime, and their combined strength lifts them right off the ground! They have never come down, and the rumblings of their epic struggle cause what some people call thunder.

Shepard uses a comic-book format, with bold cut-paper illustrations. The roaring of the second Master Man is shown through a picture of the cracking ground and the word "ROAR" in bright yellow. Shadusa's facial expressions and his wild flight from the Master Man will prove hilarious to young readers, as will the vivid picture of the Master Man's baby pulling the bucket from the well. In addition, the retelling of this tall tale will introduce readers to Nigeria and familiarize them with the African land's culture, dress, names, and way of life. At the end, the author explains the origin of the story and affirms that this book can entertain and educate at the same time.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A boastful strongman named Shadusa meets more than his match in this Nigerian story retold in comic-book panels with a slapstick bent. In earth-tone images that suggest the African savanna, the muscular Shadusa hefts giant chunks of firewood. He makes his wife call him "Master Man," even though she warns, "No matter how strong you are, there will always be someone stronger." Inevitably Shadusa hears of a rival Master Man, and when he investigates, he sees a fierce giant who wears cow-skull bracelets and devours elephants whole. Shadusa runs for his life and escapes only because a second giant challenges the first; the men's eternal battle makes a sound called "thunder. But now you know what it really is--two fools fighting forever to see which one is Master Man." Shepard's (The Sea King's Daughter) characters speak in white voice bubbles with bold black lettering, while descriptive words appear in small, sandstone-colored rectangles. Although the passages themselves read seamlessly, the book proceeds awkwardly due to the uneven balance of attention-grabbing dialogue and understated inserts. Wisniewski, whose labor-intensive cut-paper spreads lent gravity to myth in The Warrior and the Wise Man and Golem, plays for laughs this time. Shadusa flexes his muscles haughtily in the early pages, but his eyes bulge at the sight of his opponent. Some readers may dislike this undignified portrayal of a cowardly African tribesman and the allusions to cannibalism; others will appreciate a few of its similarities to "Jack and the Beanstalk" and Wisniewski's intricate artwork. Ages 5-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Yellow, orange, and brown predominate in Wisniewski's bold, three-dimensional cut paper artwork that makes this tall tale about strongmen literally jump off the page. Packed with bravado and humor, the energized spreads are reminiscent of superhero comics, with all the dialogue in white bubbles, and sound effects like "ROAR" and "SPLASH" seeming to shake the pages. When Master Man brags about his incredible strength, his wife cautions him that he could meet someone even stronger. Thus the stage is set for not one, but two boastful giants, one casually carrying an elephant for his midday meal. In a tale that bears similarities to Jack and the Beanstalk, readers witness the foolishness of vanity, and learn the Nigerian folktale explanation for thunder as the giants take their battle to the skies. The text is spare and precise, allowing the drama of the illustrations to flesh out the tale with rattling bones, crashing boulders and combative bodies. Wit and vitality keep the violence from being over the top, making this a comical and vibrant story to act out or to read aloud, and one that will be especially appealing to boys. 2001, HarperCollins, $15.95 and $15.89. Ages 5 to 9. Reviewer: Betty Hicks
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-Big meets bigger in this humorous pourquoi tale. Muscle-bound Shadusa, as boastful as he is strong, insists on being called Master Man. Then, his wife, Shettu, encounters a baby of prodigious strength and learns that the child's father also calls himself Master Man. Shadusa runs off to teach this upstart a lesson. Instead, he finds himself cowering in fear when he sees the fearsome elephant-eating giant. Fleeing in terror, he passes by and warns some farmers in a field and then a group of porters. After rounding a bend, Shadusa discovers yet another fierce giant who calls himself Master Man. He hides in a tree while a battle ensues between the two larger-than-life figures. Their fury sweeps the pair from the earth into the clouds where they can still be heard to this day every time it thunders. Shadusa is a foolish but appealing protagonist whose inflated ego is perfectly captured in the photographed cut-paper illustrations that use shadow to great 3-D effect. People, backgrounds, even words spill over the borders of this comic-strip styled layout in reckless abandon. The story is told in alternating dialogue balloons and text boxes; the pacing is excellent and the narrative is vigorous and humorous. An author's note provides information about the Hausa people as well as a detailed derivation of this tale. Pair this exuberant story with Junko Morimoto's The Two Bullies (Crown, 1999) for an oversized good time.-Carol Ann Wilson, Westfield Memorial Library, NJ Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Caldecott Medalist Wisniewski is clearly the"Master Man" of paper-cut illustration, powerfully demonstrated again with the delightful illustrations for this traditional tall tale from northern Nigeria. Shepard is a professional storyteller and Wisniewski a former clown and puppeteer, and both understand all the elements of holding an audience spellbound with a successful tall tale. In this fast-paced story of superheroes, Shadusa is a strong but boastful man who proclaims himself the strongest man in the world—Master Man. He is challenged by an enormous man who proclaims himself the real Master Man, and as that giant is chasing Shadusa, the huge man stumbles into a fight with an even more gigantic man (and those two giants are still fighting in the sky, causing thunder from their battles). Shadusa learns that his wife's advice is correct:"No matter how strong you are, there will always be someone stronger. And watch out, or someday you may meet him." The book's design uses set-off text blocks and white speech balloons throughout and includes many pages with divided panels, giving the look of a sophisticated comic book and packing a lot of plot and action into 40 pages. Sound effects ("Splash!") and key action words ("ROAR!") are skillfully incorporated into the dramatic cut-paper collages, affording opportunities for audience participation during read-aloud sessions. The humorous story begs to be acted out and could easily be adapted into reader's theater or a play. (The author offers a reader's theater script on his Web site.) Pull this one out to read to a group of wiggly kids, and show them the power of a masterful picture book. (author's sourcenotes) (Picture book. 5-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688137830
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 340L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.63 (w) x 11.31 (h) x 0.47 (d)

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