Baba Wague 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. 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, learns the true meaning of the appearance of a snake in the granary, flees from an army of bees and mistakes a hungry albino cobra snake for a pink inner tube. And he survives, with trepidation and pride, his circumcision -- a ceremony that brings together the entire village.
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, he not only uncovers his artistic and storytelling talents, but eventually finds his way to America, where he embarks on a new life.
Baba Wagué Diakité is an award-winning artist, ceramicist, writer and storyteller. His book The Hunterman and the Crocodile was named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. The Magic Gourd (Africana Book Awards Honor Book) and The Hatseller and the Monkeys (Aesop Prize) both received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. I Lost My Tooth in Africa, written by his daughter Penda Diakité and illustrated by Wagué, won the Africana Book Award for Best Book for Young Children. Diakité is also the author/illustrator of Mee-Ann and the Magic Serpent, and he is the illustrator of Jamari’s Drum (by Eboni Bynum and Roland Jackson) and The Pot of Wisdom (by Adwoa Badoe), all Groundwood titles.
He is the founder and director of the Ko-Falen Cultural Center in Bamako, Mali, an organization that promotes cultural, artistic and educational exchanges between people of the US and Mali through art workshops, dance, music and ceremony. He is married to Portland artist Ronna Neuenschwander and divides his time between Bamako and Portland, Oregon.
...the love, interdependence and skills of the family members are so apparent that we may wonder if the price we have paid in our move to our urban, "civilised" communities is too high. - Mavis Holder, Papertigers.org
Studded with Malian proverbs, metaphors, and morals ...it's a memoir alive with far more voices than just that of the author. - Publishers Weekly
...illustrations on tiles with under-glaze color depict symbols and life in western Mali in this worthwhile addition to [any] collection…. - Patricia S. Kuntz, Multicultural Review
...stark and colorful... - New York Times
...poignant and well written...beautifully rendered... - School Library Journal
Diakite creates a mosaic made up of village life...portrayed with humor, grace and finesse...a gratifying read. - M H, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
An extraordinary window into what will be, for most readers, an unfamiliar world. - Joanna Rudge Long, The Horn Book Inc.
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