mother of monsters

The Mother of Monsters: A Story from South Africa by Fran Parnell, illustrated by Sophie Fatus

This second in a series of monster tales features a story from South Africa retold for young readers.  It is the story of Ntombi, the mischievous and brave daughter of the chief, who is determined to see the dangerous Ilulange River with her own eyes.  Her father allows her the trip to the river as long as she takes the other girls along with her.  When they finally reached the legendary river, the girls are disappointed.  Instead of danger, they have found a river that looks perfect for swimming.  Leaving their clothes on the bank, the girls splash in the water.  Then they discover that their clothes are missing.  It could have been the Mother of Monsters who took them!  One-by-one the girls pled with the monster to return their things, and the monster does.  But Ntombi is not willing to beg for her clothing, so the monster swallows her whole.  But that is not the end of the story!  You must read this book to find out how Ntombi survives the Mother of Monsters.

Parnell has broken the story into chapters, making it all the more pleasant for beginning readers who can take the story a bite at a time.  The chapters are short and filled with action.  The star of the book, Ntombi, is both brave and foolish, often at the same time.  Throughout the story, she learns about humility but also about love.  The book is clearly from another culture, which makes it all the more interesting to read.

Filled with bright colors, the paintings by Fatus have an intriguing folk quality to them.  The scenes of the girls without clothing are handled with skillfully placed leaves, hands and flowers.  The illustrations have humor to them, which makes the book very playful, something that is welcome with a monster devouring people.

A welcome addition to folktales, this is a story I had never heard before and really enjoyed.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Barefoot Books.