This Caldecott Medal-winning African tale evokes the Cinderella story, as well as the traditional theme of good triumphing over evil.
Mufaro has two daughters, the bad-tempered Manyara and the loving Nyasha, who must pass a series of tests in order for one of them to be considered a beautiful and worthy wife for the Great King. Fiercely competitive, Manyara taunts Nyasha with threats of becoming a servant once Manyara is made Queen. Nyasha doesn't complain to her father about her sister's ill will, but merely tends to her garden where she befriends a little garden snake, Nyoka. Nyoka replaces the traditional fairy godmother, and is able to transform into a hungry lost boy and an old woman. As Manyara and Nyasha journey to meet with the Great King, they are each tested by Nyoka in his various disguises. Not surprisingly, Manyara's responses are selfish and bitter, while Nyasha's are polite and thoughtful. In a surprise ending, Nyoka is revealed to be the Great King himself.
Readers will identify with the kind, patient Nyasha, while delighting in the fate met by the evil sister, Manyara.
John Steptoe has created a memorable modem fable of pride going before a fall, in keeping with the moral of the folktale that was his inspiration. He has illustrated it with stunning paintings that glow with the beauty, warmth, and internal vision of the land and people of his ancestors. His lush paintings compliment the story as they expand characterizations and setting, add depth to the text, and glow with the warmth of the land and people of Africa.
Readers will enjoy dramatizing the tale, or using it to inspire discussion about the rewards of good behavior. The elements of magic and morality blend perfectly in this wonderful interpretation of a classic fairytale.
"Steptoe weaves tribal culture and history, magic and mystery in this version of the timeless moral lesson of pride going before the fall." — The New York Times