Books by Baba Wagué Diakité
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A Hunterman and the Crocodile: A West African Folktale – 1997
This vibrant retelling of a traditional West African folk tale is full of twists and turns to keep storytime listeners glued to their seats. Tired after an overland journey to Mecca, Bamba the crocodile and his family need the help of a human to reach their river home. Donso the hunterman agrees to help, but only after Bamba promises not to bite him. When the hungry crocodile goes back on his word, Donso begs other creatures for help, only to find that they are unwilling — cow, horse, chicken, and mango tree alike feel too much resentment at the way they have been treated by humans in the past. Finally, trickster Rabbit comes to the rescue, and Donso heads home with a stack of crocodiles on his head, trussed and ready for a feast. But there is yet another surprise in store for the hunterman. When Donso gets home, he finds that his wife is gravely ill. The only thing that can save her? Crocodile tears! Needless to say, Bamba and his family give gladly of their tears in exchange for freedom.
Diakite, an artist and storyteller from Mali, tells this entertaining tale with a rolling cadence and impeccable sense of timing. His full-page illustrations, originally painted on ceramic tiles, feature stylized black figures on a pastel blue and orange background. Together, words and pictures convey both the exciting atmosphere of the story and the magic of the storytelling experience. The Hunterman and the Crocodile is destined to be a much-requested “read-aloud.”
A Kirkus review is here
AWARDS: American Library Association Notable Books for Children (WON AWARD) 1998; Coretta Scott King Award (Honor Book Winner) 1998; A Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
The Hatseller and the Monkeys – 1999
One day, BaMusa set out for a festival that was a day’s walk away. He was in such a hurry to leave, he didn’t eat any breakfast. Halfway there, he grew so tired and hungry, he had to stop and rest. But when he woke up, his hats were gone. Soon he discovered the monkeys high in the tree branches above him were all wearing colorful hats! How would he get them back? It wasn’t until BaMusa put some food in his stomach that he could think clearly and figure out exactly what he must do.
Master storyteller Baba Wague Diakite retells this highly entertaining, authentic African teaching tale the way it was told to him when he was a child. And his vibrant, ceramic-tile paintings bring BaMusa, the monkeys, and all the plants and creatures of the fertile African countryside vividly to life.
A Kirkus review is here
AWARDS: American Library Association Notable Books for Children (WON AWARD) 2000; Red Clover Award (NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD) 2001; Charlotte Zolotow Award (NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD) 2000; Florida Reading Association Children’s Book Award (NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD) 2001; Volunteer State Book Award (NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD) 2002; Young Hoosier Book Award (NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD) 2002; North Carolina Children’s Book Award (NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD) 2003; An IRA Teacher’s Choice; Parenting magazine Reading Magic Award; Aesop Accolade; Africa Access Review’s Anansi Collection: Great Picture Books on Africa
The Magic Gourd – 2003
Coretta Scott King Honoree and author/artist Diakite tells a tale from Mali about a magic gourd that can fill itself with whatever its owner desires. Hidden within this story is a powerful lesson about generosity and friendship. The accompanying illustrations in bright ceramic plates, bowls and sculpture practically dance off of the pages.
A Kirkus review is here
AWARDS: Black-Eyed Susan Book Award (NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD) 2005; Volunteer State Book Award (NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD) 2006; Storytelling World Award Parent Guide to Children Media Award; Storytelling World Award; Parent Guide to Children Media Award; NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts; CCBC Choices 2004; Children’s Africana Book Awards 2004 Honor Book for Young Children; NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts CCBC Choices 2004; Africa Access Review’s Anansi Collection: Great Picture Books on Africa
Mee-An and the Magic Serpent – 2007
Beautiful Mee-An wants to get married but can’t seem to find a man who is as perfect as she is. One day, however, her sister Assa finds Mee-An the perfect mate. Mee-An is determined to marry him, even after a series of bad omens occur. Off the sisters go to live with the perfect man, only to discover he is not at all what he seems to be. Will Assa be able to save her sister from a terrible fate? Baba Wagué Diakité’s proves himself a wonderful storyteller, and his brilliant art brings village life alive.
AWARDS: USBBY Outstanding International Books 2008
A Gift from Childhood – 2010
Baba Wagué is only four years old when he is sent to the tiny Malian village of Kassaro to be raised by his paternal grandparents, according to the family tradition. He is most unhappy about this at first, but under his grandmother’s patient and wise tutelage he comes to love his close-knit village community. He learns how to catch a catfish with his bare hands, flees from an army of bees, and mistakes a hungry albino cobra snake for a pink inner tube. Finally, Grandma Sabou decides that Baba is educated enough to go to school, and he moves back to the city, where his family struggles to provide him with a formal education. But he brings his village stories with him, and in the process of sharing them with his neighborhood uncovers his immense artistic and storytelling talents.
See a review at African Access here
AWARDS: USBBY Outstanding International Books Honor List 2011; Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices
Books Illustrated by Baba Wagué Diakité
I Lost My Tooth in Africa By Penda Diakité
Wagué was an unknown author/artist who was retelling an old folktale – often the most difficult book to publish. But I remember being struck by his authentic voice and the very beautiful and unusual primitive art that he created on ceramic tiles. I also remember being struck – much in the same way I was by Jon J Muth’s book The Three Questions — by the very resonance of its message. The message was simple and clear. Man must remember the importance of living in harmony with nature and the necessity of placing himself among – not above – all living things. It is the sort of message that reminds me why I work in this field. It is no surprise that it was named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. And knowing his background, it is also no surprise that Wagué’s unique authentic voice so strongly shone through.
Wagué was born and raised in Bamako in Mali West Africa, where he has long been known for his drawing and storytelling. This is the way people in his culture teach children. His stories are ones that have been passed down orally through ancestors for thousands of years. Wagué tells them just the way he remembers being told as a child, in the voice of his grandparents who helped raise him. Through these stories children are taught morals and life’s lessons through the ways of nature. They are also taught respect for each other and for the world.
When Wagué moved to Portland, Oregon, twenty years ago, he learned pottery making from his American wife, who is also an artist. As he worked, he recalled as many of the stories as he could from his childhood and drew them on pottery. This is the way he taught himself English. His ceramic work is exquisite, and he’s well known for it around the Pacific Northwest. A good example of this can be seen in his book, The Magic Gourd, where some of his bowls, plates and mud cloth designs are used as storytelling devises.
His latest book, I Lost My Tooth in Africa, was written by his 12-year-old daughter Penda. Penda grew up in Portland, Oregon, and traveled with her family back to Africa each year to visit their African family in Mali. Inspired by her father’s storytelling and the family trips to Africa, Penda told this story which actually happened to her when she was eight. It was about the time her family was en route to Mali, when her little sister, Amina, discovered she had a loose tooth. More than anything, Amina wanted to lose her tooth in Africa so that she could leave it under a gourd, and the African tooth fairy would bring her two chickens! Would Amina lose her tooth in time? Would she get her chickens? Would their eggs hatch before they had to return to America? Who would care for the baby chicks while she was gone?
When Wagué first told me his daughter had written a book, I braced myself as I always do when a grownup sends me the work of their “gifted child”. Before he even sent it to me, I had composed the rejection letter in my mind. I worried about how I would let the family down easily. But that wasn’t even remotely necessary. When I read her first draft, I was completely amazed! Her story showed talent, charm – and even a genius in her sophisticated understanding of elements of telling a story. Pacing, suspense, interesting and appealing characters. She even has a distinctive voice!
I’m told that with the money Penda had made on her advance, she bought video equipment and took film-making classes. She had grown impatient waiting for the time it takes to produce a book. She wanted faster results. So in the interim, she has also become a prolific filmmaker. She has written and directed dozens of her own short films (which are also quite amazing!) And what of her little sister Amina, the main character in I Lost My Tooth in Africa? Amina is now the star and stock character of Penda’s films. Hopefully, as book reviews begin to come in and the excitement builds, Penda will be inspired to write more books. She’s been blessed with unusual talent and creativity – and with parents who know how to help her channel it. I have no doubt Penda will have many, many more stories to tell. I hope so!”
AWARDS: Children’s Africana Book Awards 2010 Best Book for Young Children; Africa Access Review’s Anansi Collection: Great Picture Books on Africa