From the opening full-bleed, full-spread watercolor illustration of a young boy greeting the dawn in front of his grass-roofed hut with arms stretched wide toward heaven, to the final spread of a community gathered to praise God under a baobab tree’s encompassing branches, a spirit of quiet joy and wonder reverberates through this tale. As brother and sister Moyo and Japera walk dusty roads to the next village, they pass through their diverse community: weaverbirds in acacia trees, gazelle at a watering hole, a termite mound “rising from the tall grass like a finger pointing to heaven,” rendered by Lewis (Bat Boy and His Violin) as a vivid red natural sculpture decorating a brown, arid plain. Amid the children’s observations and musings, Stiegemeyer (Seven Little Bunnies) interweaves the refrain “But who will gather today under the baobab tree?” A preface page introduces the baobab tree, describing its practical and spiritual value to the African savanna’s human and animal communities. Understated lyricism combines with uncluttered, foreground-focused depictions of creation in this prose hymn of thanksgiving, prayer, and praise. Ages 4–7. (May)
Publisher Weekly Review
'Amid the children’s observations and musings, Stiegemeyer (Seven Little Bunnies) interweaves the refrain “But who will gather today under the baobab tree?” A preface page introduces the baobab tree, describing its practical and spiritual value to the African savanna’s human and animal communities. Understated lyricism combines with uncluttered, foreground-focused depictions of creation in this prose hymn of thanksgiving, prayer, and praise.' - Publishers Weekly Review
Children's Literature - Phyllis Kennemer
At the dawn of a new day, Moyo steps from his straw-bound hut somewhere in the African savanna and calls out to Japera. The brother and sister walk along the dusty road to the next village for a gathering under the baobab tree, the tree of life. They speculate about what may be happening under the tree today. They know that market wagons with colored cloth and pots and pans sometimes stop there. On other days they may observe the elders engaged in long talks about the village and its people. Storytellers occasionally tell tales of heroes and legends under the tree. Moyo and Japera take note of the natural life along the trail. Their observations include a weaverbird building a nest in an acacia tree, gazelle around a water hole, and a tall termite mound. When they reach the tree they sit on a bench and wait to see what will happen. Other people join them and soon a crowd forms. A church pastor, dressed in a black robe and carrying a large book (presumably a Bible) steps up next to the tree trunk. A worship service consisting of songs, voices, and prayers follows. The Christian orientation of the book is evident throughout. A verse from Psalms appears next to the title page. Japera sings praises to her heavenly father as she skips along the path, and the culmination of the story is a church service. Expressive, softly-colored illustrations fill the pages with happy people and provide an impression of the African landscape. An author's note describes the significance of the baobab tree in the lives of the people. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 2—In an unspecified African country, a brother and sister walk to their village, wondering who will gather today under the baobab tree. As the central gathering place, it might be hosting a market, a storyteller, or elders discussing local business. No one is there when the children arrive, but gradually a crowd gathers. Soon the children learn that today's event will be a service—"Here there are no windows or doors. No church bell or steeple. No organ or flowers. Just a cross and a Bible, a pastor and songs, voices and prayers." Lewis's glowing watercolors convey the contemporary savanna setting with warmth and energy. Sunlight and color fill each frame as the siblings make their journey, while leafy endpapers signal the tree's importance. Religion is part of the children's daily existence, along with the plants, animals, and weather. The author suggests that the people view both God and the baobab tree as providing support for their lives. This book could be used effectively with Cristina Kessler's My Great-Grandmother's Gourd (Orchard, 2000), another title that demonstrates the importance of the baobab tree to village life.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
A brother and sister travel to a special gathering under a gigantic baobab tree in this quiet, beautifully illustrated story set in a rural area of an unnamed African country. The siblings walk together down a dusty road on their way to a nearby village, where the large baobab tree is located. The story relates different events that happen under the tree: a visit from the market wagon, elders meeting to discuss village business, a storyteller recounting tales of heroes. A repeated refrain builds anticipation: "But who will gather today under the baobab tree?" During their journey, the children spot some intriguing sights such as gazelle around a watering hole and a termite mound. When they reach the baobab tree at last, they join other people waiting under the tree, and it gradually becomes apparent that this is an outdoor church service with just the basic elements: "a cross and a Bible, a pastor and songs, voices and prayers." Evocative watercolor illustrations make effective use of sunlight and shadows to create a warm, realistic world that shimmers in the African heat. A subtle, captivating glimpse of another way of life, with a regrettably generalized author's note about the significance of the baobab tree in African culture. (Picture book/religion. 4-8)
Read an Excerpt
Under the Baobab Tree
By Julie Stiegemeyer
ZONDERVAN Copyright © 2011 Julie Stiegemeyer
All right reserved.
Chapter One When the sun turns the morning sky to golden honey, a new day dawns, and Moyo steps from his straw-bound hut and begins his journey.
"Hurry, Japera," he calls to his sister. "Time to go!"
Moyo and Japera travel down the red, dusty road to the next village. There, they will gather under the baobab tree, the tree of life.
Moyo knows that some days the market wagon stops under the baobab tree. Villagers buy brightly colored cloth and heavy pots and pans.
But who will gather today under the baobab tree?
As the sun creeps above the horizon, Moyo gives thanks for the day as he watches clouds skim above the blue hills, hidden in shadow.
A weaverbird glances at Moyo and Japera as they pass by. Then the bird returns to building its basket-nest in the arms of an acacia tree.
Sometimes the elders gather under the baobab for long talks about the village and its people.
But who will gather today under the baobab tree?
Excerpted from Under the Baobab Tree by Julie Stiegemeyer Copyright © 2011 by Julie Stiegemeyer . Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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