Drum (Dikatso Mametse)
“This is a magical book – well written with a great story line and beautifully illustrated.”
www.iafrica.com (Karen Whitty)
“With lots of laughs and thrills aplenty, Kubuka and the Magic Calabash will no doubt soon grow into a legend of its own.” http://entertainment.iafrica.com/books/childrens/392473.htm
Kubuka and the Magic Calabash
Out of 5:
‘Kubuka and the Magic Calabash’ will enthrall children old and young, thanks to a storyline with as many kinks and curls in it as the tail of the intrepid little monkey that it follows.
Ideal for children aged 6-12, the book is punctuated by colourful illustrations and each chapter is around ten pages long – perfect for a good bedtime story session and easily handled by speedy readers.
Only very rarely has a children’s book hooked me like this one did. The story follows the little vervet monkey Kubuka who, after being tossed out of his tribe to find his own way – part of the “wandering time” in which all young males must partake – falls into the trunk of a huge baobab tree while searching for food. Living in the tree is the water spirit Amanzi, who has been banished there by the evil magician of the bush, Zaka. As a result, there has been little rain and the animals and plants of the bush are dying.
Amanzi is distraught and he entrusts the little monkey with a mission: to retrieve the magic calabash from Zaka and bring it back to him. Only once the calabash is back in Amanzi’s possession, will the rains fall again on Africa.
Kubuka takes on his responsibility with the kind of spunky bravery and wily monkey humour that quickly endears him to the reader (Kubuka means “admire” in Sindebele). On his journey to Zaka’s evil dwelling, he comes across creatures of myth and reality, who teach him the valuable lessons of courage, loyalty and, above all, keeping his sense of humour.
Bazi the hyena is especially memorable for this and will no doubt be a firm favourite among the book’s colourful characters, whom author Janet Keegans brings to life through clever dialogue and creative, yet concise, descriptions.
Growing up in the bush has instilled in Keegans a knowledge and love of the African veld and its animals that is as genuine as it is practical. Many of the references are based on real African myths: baobabs are considered dwelling places of spirits, for example. She also evokes the area around Great Zimbabwe powerfully, with its hilly piles of stones, yawning caves and the majestic ruins of abandoned stone palaces.
But not only does she tell a good story; Keegans manages to infuse the reader with her love for African folklore, the feeling that drives the story to its magical end.
With lots of laughs and thrills aplenty, ‘Kubuka and the Magic Calabash’ will no doubt soon grow into a legend of its own.
Review by: Kitty Honeybrook on June 23, 2012 :
Combine a cheeky young monkey, a heroic quest, a little African magic, lots of funny bits, gorgeous illustrations, and you have the perfect children’s story. Adults will also enjoy it (as I did!) One of the things I most like about Janet Keegan’s writing is her faithful depiction of the African landscape and it’s creatures. Whilst anthropomorphised, her animals nevertheless stay true to their natural character. Kubuka, for instance, loves fruit and is not above stealing some bananas from an African village! I thoroughly enjoyed this gem of a book, which I originally bought for my nieces. Not to be missed.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Review by: Brent Green on June 18, 2012 :
Very good…I’m sure it will delight any one who reads it. I had the pleasure of enjoying it whilst on safari in Africa; and couldn’t help imagining the personality of each novel character in the real animals I saw!
(reviewed within a month of purchase)
Once upon a time in Africa, there was a great drought in the land …
The leaves fell from the trees, and the water holes slowly dried up until they were empty pans of cracked earth. The rivers disappeared under their sandy beds, and it was hard for the animals to find food or water.
But deep in the African bush, in the wildest places, there grows an extraordinary tree that can survive any drought. In all the old tribal legends, the baobab tree is a place where spirits live — often ancestral spirits, but sometimes others — as we shall see.
The Baobab Tree
The baobab tree’s ancient, scarred trunk was as wide as five elephants and its branches could stretch over a whole herd. There was nothing left alive on earth that had seen this tree as a young sapling, but here it still stood after a thousand years. It was providing, as it had always done, a meal for another living creature. On this particular evening it was a young and adventurous vervet monkey who had spent the afternoon foraging among the bare branches of this massive tree, helping himself to the cream-of-tartar pods.
Kubuka (for that was the monkey’s name) blinked as a small bat flitted past him, twittering. He hadn’t noticed the sun setting – and now it was nearly time to find somewhere to sleep for the night. He dropped the pod on which he had been nibbling. The sweet, dry white lumps inside had made him thirsty. What to do? Go to bed thirsty, or try to find a drink now, before it got too dark for little monkeys to be out alone in the bush?
Kubuka was alone because he had been sent away on his ‘wandering time’, which was meant to toughen up troublesome young males. It was also a sort of punishment – Kubuka had been seriously naughty, cheeking the dominant male and even getting into a nasty fight. He would only be allowed back when he was much stronger and wiser – and more respectful.
He felt lonely, thinking of the troop. Then he remembered something the Troop Mother had told him when he was little.
‘Baobabs are wonderful trees’, she had informed him in her listen-to-me voice while, holding one of his arms in the air, she picked at the fur round his tummy for fleas, ‘They give you food, shelter, and drink, too’.
Kubuka frowned, trying to remember what else she had said. Her skinny, wrinkled fingers had been tickling quite unbearably at the time, and he had been trying not to giggle. (Giggling or wriggling while receiving a grooming session from such an important monkey as the Troop Mother was terribly bad manners).
He pictured her face again. Yes – it was coming back to him now. She had said that baobab trees often have a hollow middle, where if you’re lucky, rainwater collects, making a perfect private well for animals like monkeys, who above all things are good climbers. Kubuka turned and walked back along the broad, smooth branch of the tree, climbed the rest of the way up the trunk and peered over a ridge of bark right at the top.
‘AiEeeeeeesh…!’ He yelped, leaping backwards in fright, tumbling down and (luckily for the story of Kubuka), landing on another fat branch just below.
There was something inside the tree! A pair of eyes shining in a dark face! He shivered, his small body curled up in fright, his tail almost in his mouth.. He listened carefully, staring up at the rim where he had perched, all his senses on the alert. Nothing. Could it have been just a couple of of bats down there, perhaps? Kubuka started to feel a little curious. Monkeys are dreadfully inquisitive animals, and poor, thirsty little Kubuka was no exception. Also, he had smelled water.
Cautiously, he crept back, closer and closer, until he could peep once more over the edge. It was quite gloomy down there, but after a moment he realised that he was looking at his own bright-eyed reflection.
He felt a little foolish, but no-one was watching except maybe the bats, and they didn’t count. Kubuka perched casually on the edge and looked down into quite a deep hollow, about four tail-lengths wide. Sure enough, there was water down there – its still, dark surface as reflective as a mirror.
Feeling thirstier than ever, Kubuka examined the sides for a way down. The smooth bark of the baobab was folded and wrinkled on the inside of the hollow trunk; there were rootlike growths here and there to hold on to.
The light was fading fast now, and Kubuka knew he would have to hurry. So he hopped over the edge and, using all four hands plus his tail, carefully lowered himself down to the surface.
The water was surprisingly cool and fresh. He drank thirstily, hanging sideways with his tail firmly wrapped round a handy root. A few mosquitoes rose, whining, from the surface
Then the water swirled and heaved. Kubuka jerked back from the pool and stared. There was something in there! Surely not a fish? Fish don’t live in trees, he was pretty sure of that. Then a deep, gentle voice seemed to bubble up from beneath the water.
‘Thank you for your visit…’ said the voice, ‘But you have drunk my water, and now you owe me a favour’. Kubuka froze in fright, one drop trembling on his chin.. Was he hearing things? An owl spoke softly in the distance. The wind breathed past the bare branches of the tree. It was quite dark inside the hollow. Kubuka decided that things were getting a little too spooky, and he retreated, nervously scrambling back up to the top of the opening.
‘Don’t be afraid,’ said the voice quickly. ‘It is I, Amanzi, Spirit of the Rain.’
Kubuka perched a safe distance from the hollow. He thought that it would be best if he were polite.
‘Greetings, O spirit Amanzi’, replied Kubuka, ‘I am Kubuka of the Tshoko tribe, and I thank you for my drink of water.’ He paused. Then his monkey curiosity got the better of him again.
‘But please tell me,’ he said, ‘If you are a Rain Spirit, what are you doing inside this baobab tree?’
More bubbling noises started coming up from the well. Kubuka suddenly remembered that if you call a spirit by its name, it can appear if it wants to. That was something else the Troop Mother had told the tribe one moonlit evening, with the elders wedged comfortably in the branches of an enormous ebony tree and the small ones cuddling close.
A splashing sound added itself to the bubbling noises. Kubuka kept his distance, but rose up higher to see into the hollow.
A wobbling, silvery shape was coming out of the well!
It was fat and rippling like a huge raindrop. It had long, thin arms, just one leg and its hair resembled a miniature waterfall. It had a round, friendly face, with one huge, silvery-blue eye. It rested on the edge of the hollow and sighed with a gurgling sound.
The eye blinked at Kubuka, who stared back. in disbelief. He could see the moonlight shining through the spirit’s watery form.
‘Why am I in this baobab tree, indeed?’ it said, ‘Well, it’s a long story, but if you’re going to return the favour, you have to know how it all happened’.
Kubuka was fairly certain there would be nothing he could do as a favour for such a strange being, but he decided to listen first and ask questions later. He crept closer and settled down, all ears. The moon was rising quite fast now, and it was the perfect time for stories.
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