Slowly! Slowly! by T.M. Clark and Helene Magisson
Wombat Books, 2017. ISBN 9781925563221
(Age: 3-6) Recommended. Themes: Monkeys, Patience, Resilience, Compassion. Bongani is a little boy who desperately wants to go to school, but he is too young. Adapted from a South African saying, "Softly, softly, catchee monkey", Slowly! Slowly! features the same attributes as the motto: patience and perseverance.
Although Bongani is not big enough to go to school he is given the job of looking after the crops and chasing the animals away. Bongani's grandfather is there to give him advice about catching a monkey when he decides to show his family that he is big and strong enough to go to school. The trap he sets first doesn't capture the monkey and Grandfather tells him to set it again, but this time the monkey bares his teeth at Bongani who stops and waits. Finally Grandfather comes up with a solution to catching the maize-munching monkey.
The illustrations by Helene Magisson are in soft blues and greens, highlighted with soft reds and purples, and bring the story beautifully to life. Bongani's small size is emphasised against the size of the huge tree trunks and Grandfather, while the cheeky little monkey is a delight to follow as it gets the trap caught on its paw.
The narrative reads aloud well, with a repetitive refrain that makes the African tale stand out:
Bongani stood tall.
'Dad, am I big enough?
Am I higher than the hyena?
Can I go to school?
When perusing Slowly! Slowly! a second time, the reader is rewarded with a insight into African customs and family life as well as the values of compassion and patience.