Genre: Family / Animals / Trickery / Folktale / Africa
Year Published: 2001
Year Read: 2015
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
I have read many African folktales over the years and I have enjoyed almost every single one of them! So, I stumbled upon this new African folktale retold by Margaret Read MacDonald called “Mabela the Clever” along with illustrations by Tim Coffey and man, it was a truly fantastic tale that every child should read!
Mabela is the smallest mouse in her village and even though it has been said that the mice are all foolish creatures, Mabela proves to be more clever than the other mice, especially since her father had taught her how to be more aware of her surroundings in this little quote:
“Mabela, when you are out and about, keep your ears open and LISTEN.
Mabela, when you are out and about, keep your eyes open and LOOK AROUND YOU.
Mabela, when you are speaking, PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU ARE SAYING.
Mabela, if you have to move, MOVE FAST!”
One day, the Cat came to the Mouse Village and she invited the mice to her secret Cat Society where she can teach them the secrets of being a cat. All the mice were excited about this and they met up with the Cat at her house and the Cat tells them that they need to learn this song:
“When we are marching,
We never look back!
The Cat is at the end,
The Cat then tells the mice that they must march in a straight line towards the forest and as the mice were marching while singing the song, the Cat ended up capturing each mouse one by one due to the fact that no one was watching the Cat as she performs this heinous act.
Can Mabela save the other mice?
Read this book to find out!
Oh man, how could I not check this book out before? Margaret Read MacDonald has done an excellent job at capturing the humor and the tension of this tale as we laugh at the mice following the Cat and suspecting that nothing is wrong, while at the same time, we feel some tension in the story in hoping that the mice make it out of the Cat’s grasp by the end of the book! I also loved the fact that Mabela’s father was able to teach his daughter about the dangers of the outside world and how to avoid those dangers as it shows the importance of a parent trying to protect their children by giving them warnings about surviving in the outside world ahead of time. Tim Coffey’s artwork had the perfect blend of intensity and humor as the mice look more goofy with their large vacant eyes while the cat looks more menacing with her slanted green eyes and orange fur that really makes her stand out from the colorful atmosphere of the artwork.
Parents should know that the cat might scare smaller children, especially since she wants to eat the mice and even tricked them into her little game. Parents might want to warn their children about the consequences of going off with strangers without knowing the full facts of the situation and teach children how to defend themselves whenever they are in such a situation.
Overall, “Mabela the Clever” is a truly fantastic book about the importance of heeding warnings about dangerous situations in life and showing how parents can be extremely resourceful when it comes to teaching their children about the ways of the world. I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since the cat might scare smaller children.