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When a little girl leaves her little stuffed bear behind, young Meto must race against time to give it back to her and enlists the help of his friends, Hippopotamus, Lion, Elephant, and Giraffe, in a delightful story that celebrates the people and animals of the African savanna.
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In this winsome import from France, Ichikawa (Nora's Castle) tells how the very first bear came to Africa. When a family of tourists "from far, far away" visits his African village, Meto is fascinated by the teddy bear the young daughter holds and remarks, "I have never seen this kind of animal before--it is not from our savanna." The girl inadvertently leaves her teddy behind as the family drives off in their jeep; a dramatic illustration shows the boy's shadow cast across an entire spread as he gazes at her forgotten property. The boy becomes determined to return it. The author smoothly incorporates the reactions of the animals that are native to the savanna as the boy carries the strange creature in pursuit of its owner. Joined by a growing menagerie and riding on the back of a giraffe, Meto reaches the visitors just as they are about to board a small plane and hands the stuffed toy to the delighted girl. Picking up on her words ("My bear!"), the enlightened animals spread the word across the savanna that a bear has graced their presence, "The first bear in all of Africa." Drawing on a palette of soft, earth tones, Ichikawa's watercolor paintings bring the terrain, people and wildlife into clear focus and illuminate the story's subtle juxtaposition of two cultures. A light, appealing caper. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.From School Library Journal:
PreS-Gr 1-Meto lives with his family and animals "in a very small village in the middle of the African savanna." One day, tourists appear in their motorcar and, as the boy puts it, "watch us all the time from behind their photographic machines." Among the group is a little girl holding a toy bear, and Meto notices that he has "never seen this kind of animal before." Shortly after the group departs, he spies the bear on the ground and takes off on foot to return it. Along the way, each animal Meto passes has a question or a comment. A hippopotamus wants the bear for his son; the lion wonders if a new animal has entered his kingdom; an elephant hears the little girl crying; and a giraffe provides the ride that allows Meto to reach the tourists' plane. The story ends as the creatures marvel over the appearance of the "first bear in all of Africa." Attractive watercolor illustrations capture Meto's exuberance and his innocent interactions with the animals of his savanna. A brief glossary of Swahili words provides the only specific connection to this generic African landscape. A sweet and idealized tale of universal fellowship.
Alicia Eames, New York City Public Schools
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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