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Tortoise's Dream is a wonderful book from the Folk Tales of the World collection by Joanna Troughton. She has written a series of 14 books, each telling a folk tale from around the world. This book is a tale from Africa.
Tortoise has a dream. In his dream, he imagines a tree that is full of all the earths fruit, including bananas, dates, melons and pineapples. When he wakes up he tells all the African animals about his wonderful dream. The lion laughs, saying it is only a dream. Tortoise feels it is true and says Grandma Koko will know where it grows. The lion decides he will go and ask Grandma Koko as Tortoise is too "slow and steady".
So off Lion goes to find Grandma Koko. Luckily wise Grandma Koko has heard of this tree from Tortoise's dream. It has a fantastic name 'Omumbo-rombonga', and if the animals want the fruit to fall, so they can feast, then the lion must remember the name and shout it out. How will he find the tree, he wonders. Grandma Koko, explains that if he remembers the name he will find the tree and if he remembers the name the fruit will fall, but "don't look round on your way back or the name will go out of your head".
This is where the story becomes fun. Lion heads back to the other eagerly awaiting animals with the name of the tree. Lion is fierce and bold, but on his way back he looked behind, and then tripped over an ant hill. The name went out of his mind "Omrongbing....?".
After Lion, Elephant, Hyena, Ostrich, Baboon and Giraffe all take their turn to go and see Grandma Koko. Each have special characteristics. The elephant is 'big and strong', the hyena is 'cunning and sly', the Ostrich is 'fast and speedy', the baboon is 'clever and wise' and the giraffe 'stately and proud'. Although each animal is special in their own way and remembers all the other obstacles on the path of the previous animals, they all look behind and come across another obstacle in their path. The name of the tree goes right out of their heads. The various names they say for the tree are funny and we have lots of fun saying them. They love the baboon scratching his head saying "Mumbo-bumbo".
Lastly Tortoise is allowed to go. Do not forget that he is 'slow and steady' and none of the other animals trusted that he could do it. He sees all the obstacles, and never looked around, so he sees the scorpion in his path. He says the name of the tree, to all the other animals amazement, behind them is the Omumbo-rombonga tree, full of all the fruit. Tortoise says the name again and all the fruit falls. The animals feast, and at Tortoise's suggestion they each plant a seed from a different fruit.
Tortoise's Dream is a great book for children from 4 up. It is used in many schools as part of the curriculum on teaching about different cultures and stories that are told. This folk tale really emphasizes that you need to be positive in life. Tortoise was slow and steady, but never gave up and knew he could do it. None of the other animals believed in him, thinking they had better attributes. However,whether clever or fast, the other animals did not think, and rushed ahead, failing the task.
The story also has a nice explanation of how the fruits came to be.
Joanna Troughton also illustrates the book. The animals are illustrated with super expressions, especially when they come across their obstacle. To begin with, each animal looks fierce or bold, but after their journey they have very silly expressions. The book is based in the African savannah, so the background is full of warm yellows, then in the foreground are the various animals. Grandma Koko, is very colourful in all her fine African attire.
The book is excellent for map work, either in a classroom or at home. As each animals makes their journey and fails because they look behind, they come across an obstacle. Each animal remembers to look out for the obstacles the previous animals come across, but then they look around. So a map can be made from Grandma Koko's to the tree which Tortoise finds. Children can draw the journey with the various hinderances, like the ant hill, mud and thorn. It's great to try and remember the order of events.
My children love to try and remember the name of the tree. Trying to get their little tongues around the word Omumbo-rombonga is quite tricky, and great to hear! My boys laugh at themselves as they try to remember the word.
This is a fantastic book to share with your children. You know it is a well liked book when your son says "Great this story, I love it!". It is fun and brings lots of laughs. Good old Tortoise is the hero of the story, it was his dream and he deserved to find the tree. All the other animals failed, which is not a bad thing, but they should have trusted Tortoise in the first place. An African tale with some super messages. We really enjoy it, and I'm sure you would too.
Tortoise's Dream is published by Puffin and has a recommended price of £5.99.