Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain

by Verna Aardema; pictures by Beatriz Vidal. This is a Reading Rainbow book from 1981. I bought it for Buster about 16 years ago because I loved the rhythm and rhyme and the beautiful illustrations. If you google it you will find pages and pages of lesson plans for the ways teachers use it in the classroom to talk about weather, culture, African animals, etc. "Between the Lions", the PBS show, does an episode on it and you can read the whole text of the book here. I was reminded of it this past week after reading Thunder Rose, because of the similar way they bring rain to end the droughts on the plains of Texas and Kenya.

Ki-pat is a boy who herds his family cattle on the dry plains. There are plenty of heavy dark clouds, but the rain never falls. Ki-pat stands on one leg and watches

.. the cows,
all hungry and dry,
Who mooed for the rain
to fall from the sky;
To green-up the grass,
all brown and dead,
That needed the rain
from the cloud overhead –
The big, black cloud,
all heavy with rain,
That shadowed the ground
on Kapiti Plain.

Ki-pat solves his problem in a similar way to Thunder Rose. An eagle drops a feather as he stands watching. He picks it up and makes an arrow, and then makes a bow. He shoots the cloud;

So the grass grew green,
And the cattle fat!
And Ki-pat got a wife
And a little Ki-pat…

Ki-pat doesn’t reach down inside to the bull’s eye target of his heart where love and joy are stored up from his birth song as Thunder Rose does, but he uses his creativity to shoot the sky and bring the rain, just as Thunder Rose used her iron lasso to grab a cloud and bring some rain. I think the two stories go well together.

In the back of the book there is a paragraph telling about the history of the tale. Verna Aardema wrote the story based on a Nandi village story. The Nandi people live in Kenya. You can listen to Nandi men singing dance songs at here. Aardema reworked the story from a version done by anthropologist Sri Claud Hollis, who learned the folktales from the Chief Medicine Man of a Nandi tribe he was studying in the early 1900s. It reminded him of the cumulative nursery rhyme “The House That Jack Built” so he called it “The Nandi House That Jack Built”. Aardema wrote it with a repetitive refrain and brought the telling even closer to the English nursery rhyme. I think that is what makes her story so popular with children and adults alike. It is easy to chant, recall and adapt for story theater. I think it is one of the most well-loved and recommended African folktales of our time. For me the charm is in the creativity and initiative of the child who watches cows and eagles, builds feather arrows, calls the rain and waters the grasslands with his simple, innate abilities. It’s a charming, magical transformation that is with in everyone’s reach. I find that inspiring.

1 comment:

kim said...

Oooh, you know we love this one.