Review: Don’t Spill the Milk by Stephen Davies

dont spill the milk

Don’t Spill the Milk by Stephen Davies, illustrated by Christopher Corr

Penda lives in a tiny village in Niger with her family.  Her father has headed up into the grasslands with the sheep.  Penda volunteers to take her father a bowl of milk and has to try not to spill any along the way.  She puts the milk on her head and starts to walk.  She has to walk along the sand dunes and between the dancers at the rainy-season mask dance.  Then she takes a boat across the Niger River with the milk still on her head.  After that she has to climb one last mountain and there is her father.  She’s almost there when…  You will have to read whether Penda delivers the milk successfully or not.  

Davies has traveled extensively in Africa and carefully chose the setting of the Niger River thanks to its varied landscape and intriguing animals.  All of the landforms in the book exist in this area as do the animals too, including the unusual and endangered pale giraffes.  Davies writes with a lovely rhythm that moves the book along quickly.  Penda speaks to herself as she walks, reminding herself to pay attention in couplets of natural verse.

Corr’s art is eye-poppingly bright with yellow skies, orange hills, and blue water.  Against those bright colors, the characters wear even more color filled with designs.  The book evokes the vibrancy of Africa and the bustle of its villages. 

Expect small children to want to try to carry bowls of liquids on their own heads after this beautiful introduction to Africa.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.