One night Nzambi Mpungu, who made earth and sky, grew too tired to finish her latest creature, the Crab. ``Come back in the morning,'' she promises, ``and I will give you a fine head.'' Crab convinces himself that because his creation takes two days, he must be a finer specimen than any of the other animals. He brags to all the animals, and by next morning, a crowd has gathered. (``Vulture showed up in case there might be food, and the Lizards arrived when the sun was warm on the walls where they liked to bask.'') But Crab is shamed and punished for his pride: he gets no head at all. So today, he shuttles sideways from embarrassment, and can only push his eyes out of his shell. The beautifully written text is matched with striking black-and-white illustrations that suggest stark woodcuts. This African tale is artful, using ancient elements to portray a still relevant message: to lie to oneself will surely lead to dishonesty with others. Ages 4-8. (November)
PreS-Gr 4 A porquoi tale from the Ba kongo people of Zaire. Making Elephant was heavy work for Nzambi Mpungu, who made the earth and sky, and so she promises the hastily-made Crab that he can come back the next day for his head. Filled with pride, Crab invites the other creatures to come and witness the mak ing of what will surely be the most mag nificent head yet. But Crab fails to reck on with the subtle wisdom of Nzambi. Knutson's own African experiences in form both her graceful text and her vigor ous illustrations. She successfully inte grates the rhythms and diction of oral tradition with the pacing and humor nec essary to hold the attention of young, modern audiences. Each page is bor dered with bold geometric and animal motifs taken from native African art. The illustrations within are more fluid than the borders and convey the grace-in-mo tion of African beasts in the wild. This combination of woodblock boldness and freehand spontaneity was achieved using scratchboard, although Knutson has, to good effect, avoided the crosshatching and shading often associated with that medium. Quite different from the more familiar Nigerian tale of the same name (in which Elephant beheads Crab for playing tricks), this exuberantly-told tale of hubris will be a welcome addition to the read-aloud repertoire. Carolyn Po lese, Gateway Community School, Ar cata, Calif.