I brought home several new books from Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Writing a couple weeks ago. I have collected beautiful picture books since I worked in a Logos Bookstore children’s department when I was first married, long before my own kids. My children remember the antique glass cupboard with books that we looked at together, turning the pages carefully with clean hands. In recent years I have focused on books that represent Africa in a positive way.
Under the Baobab Tree by Julie Steigemeyer could take place anywhere in southern Africa. The way the little girl on the cover wrapped her capulana reminded me of children in our old home of Mozambique and drew me immediately to the book. I also have a thing for trees (witness my bulging iPhoto files) and memories of picnics and climbing on the big baobab on the highway to Beitbridge, so I was a sucker for this one.
Under the Baobab Tree is about two children hurrying to the neighboring village, wondering who will gather under the “tree of life” today. The reader gets glimpses of African culture as the children imagine various activities that typically go on in the shade of the baobab. When they arrive, a church service meets under the tree.
“Here there are no windows or doors.
No church bells or steeple.
No organ or flowers.
Just a cross and a Bible,
a pastor and songs,
voices and prayers.”
In Maputo years ago our church had far too many people to fit in the old church building. We met outside under trees and a great zinc-roofed shelter. I taught Sunday school in the sand using twigs for craft materials. Wetherford’s book touched a personal chord for me. (I have also discovered she is a fellow Hoosier from Fort Wayne, Indiana.)
The pictures are beautiful watercolors by E. B. Lewis who illustrated several of Jane Kurtz’s Ethiopia books. The story might be a little confusing to young children because the pictures of the various activities going on under the tree are conjecture and not what is actually happening, but with a little interpretative help from adults, this shouldn’t be a problem. The book would make a wonderful addition to your church library.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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