Children's LiteratureThis volume of the "Indigenous Peoples of Africa" series provides information about the culturally diverse peoples of Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa, as well as Swaziland and Lesotho within the borders of South Africa. Languages, lifestyles, history, and politics are explored along with the effects of European colonialism on the economies and well being of southern Africa's inhabitants. Cultural traditions (rites of passage, marriage, and the arts) and spiritual traditions (spiritual leaders, sacred places, gods, and festivals) are included, with a final chapter devoted to the present day problems of war, political instability, poverty, and inadequate health care. Although sidebars present facts on a variety of topics, such as the Zulu kingdom and the De Beers diamond monopoly, some issues are under-emphasized; for example, the miserable plight of women in these countries (female circumcision is presented as a viable cultural tradition, while its horrors and effects are not discussed). A short section on the arts mentions only dancing and Zulu beadwork. Jenson-Elliott, who has spent some time in Kenya and Tanzania, quotes liberally from several documented sources as well as providing a seven-page bibliography for further research. Illustrations are black-and-white photos, some of them rather dark and dingy. As the text proceeds relentlessly through this welter of information, teachers may want to introduce a bit of color and drama by suggesting some of the many beautifully illustrated folk tales from the region, pertinent well-written fiction, or non-fiction such as Diane Stanley's admirable Shaka, King of the Zulus. 2003, Lucent/Gale, Ages 12 to16.
Barbara L. Talcroft