Dumazi and the big yellow lion by Valanga Khoza
Illus. by Matt Ottley. Scholastic 2019. ISBN: 9781742994116.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Fable, Lions, Africa, Folk tale. When Dumazi walks from her village to the waterhole, a calabash on her head she hears a lion bemoaning its fate in the bushes. He has been caught by a hunter's rope trap and cannot get out. He promises Dumazi that if she releases him he will not eat her. She releases him only to find that he intends to break his promise. She takes him to see some other animals to see what they say about the lion eating her, but each that she sees, has their own reason for telling the lion to go ahead and eat her. The giraffe recalls that Dumazi is a human and humans are responsible for setting things on fire and building fences which have restricted the animal's jungle home. She asks the elephant, and the elephant shows her his half sawn off tusk, taken by poachers, so tells the lion to go ahead and eat her. But the monkey derides the lion, saying he will tell all the animals that the lion was caught in a rope trap and laugh at him. He then cleverly gets the lion to show hm the rope trap and how he was caught, so entangling himself again. The clever monkey slips back into the jungle warning the lion not to make promises he cannot keep, and deploring his behaviour towards Dumazi who saved his life.
This wonderful tale full of the sights and sounds of Africa, will be adored by all readers, intrigued with the brave Dumazi wanting to release the lion but cautious lest it try to eat her. Her solution of finding what other animals think reveals the problems humans have brought to this land, and the cleverness of the monkey in trapping the lion over again will bring gales of laughter from the audience.
Ottley's wonderful illustrations depict a broad sweep of Africa, with smaller animals and insects at Dumazi's feet. The drawing of the lion completely helpless in the path of the stampeding buffalo will evoke sympathy in the reader, despite his duplicitous behaviour towards the Zulu girl. Ottley creates images from a different perspective, uses shadows to create interest and drama, and enfolds much of the book in a glorious sun shiney golden hue. I loved every page.