Thursday, February 22, 2007

Head, Body, Legs; A Story from Liberia

retold by Won-Ldy Paye & Margaret H. Lippert, illustrated by Julie Paschkis. Henry Holt, 2002.

This is a really cute story about how we need each other. The introduction in the front of the book says “Head, Body, Legs is a traditional creation story from the Dan people of northeastern Liberia in Africa. Dan mothers and grandmothers tell it to children to illustrate the importance of cooperation.”

Head starts out long ago, all alone. He rolls around eating things off the ground. He dreams of cherries but the tree is too high. When he meets a pair of arms they team up and suddenly Head can reach the cherries. Head thinks that is perfect.

As the story goes on Head gets together with Body and Legs, and when everyone is sorted out in the right place Head realizes better and better states of “perfect”. I really like the simple, direct dialog and vibrant, colorful artwork. It gets the message across clearly and is also quite funny. Young children will be delighted with the incongruity of Head thinking life is perfect once he has a couple of arms attached near his ears. They will be able to predict where the story is going, which is one of the things good readers seek to do. That the body parts assemble in unexpected places at first (head attached to body at the belly button) just adds a little drama and makes the ending, when everyone is finally in the right place and enjoying sweet mangos, that much more satisfying.

This is a wonderful book to read when conversations about unity, cohesion, community and cooperative problem solving are on the table. It’s also lots of fun to read just for the pleasure of seeing a body come together. I am looking forward to sharing it with Buddy and I’d love to hear how the children in your life respond to it as well.


MotherReader said...

Oh, I love that book. It's such a great read aloud for groups with the fun story and bright pictures. One of my favorites.

Anonymous said...

My daughter loves that book and we read it often. While it is great that you are bringing attention to it, aren't those images (and the story) copyrighted to Won-Ldy Paye, Margaret H. Lippert, and Julie Paschkis?

Andromeda Jazmon said...

That is an interesting question Anonymous. I have read several conversations about Fair Use and Poetry Friday posts on blogs in the past few months, and I am considering the issues carefully.

I believe book reviews qualify for "Fair Use". I am not reprinting the whole story here, just discussing it for educational purposes. My photographs of the illustrations are not exact reproductions of the original artwork, they are just photos of the open book.

I would be interested to hear if anyone else (particularly librarians) thinks that I have violated copywrite law. Opinions?