The Market Bowl
Picture Book, Fiction, Elementary
"In this original folktale set in modern-day Cameroon, a young girl named Yoyo is finally old enough to help Mama Cécile sell bitterleaf stew at market, and she's warned to never refuse a fair price. Eager to get to market, Yoyo ignores Mama's advice on how to make a proper stew and ends up haggling with a customer over the price of her unappetizing concoction. Yoyo must use her wits to regain a blessing from the Great Spirit of the Market, Brother Coin, and along the way she learns the value of a fair price." Publisher
Marketbowl is the story of a traditional folktale set in modern-day Cameroon. Yoyo’s Mama sells ndole (bitterleaf stew) at the market. Yoyo is finally old enough to make it herself and sit on the seller’s stool at the market, but despite her mother’s advice to measure, slice, wash, grind and simmer the ingredients, Yoyo dumps everything into the pot and makes her own creation. On the way to the market, Mama reminds Yoyo to never refuse a fair price and to ask the ancestors for blessing; otherwise Brother Coin, the Great Spirit of the Market, will put a curse on their earnings bowl. Yoyo doesn’t take Mama’s advice and must end the curse by going directly to Brother Coin. The story teaches the reader about the value of a fair price, patience and humility. The author, Jim Averbeck, was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon in the early 90s. He includes a pronunciation guide at the beginning of the text and additional background information about Cameroon and a recipe for ndole, Cameroon’s national dish, on the final page of the book.
This children’s book could be useful for sharing folktales from around the world. It may reinforce some negative stereotypes about Africa because it only shows poor, rural life and Africans believing in big, scary, male Gods. As an educator, I would balance this book with others about city-life in Africa. Oddly all the characters have light colored eyes- blue and tan. This is highly unrealistic and problematic. Otherwise the illustrations are great and capture the cultural and geographic diversity that exists in Cameroon.
Reviewed by: Anastasia Shown, University of Pennsylvania
Published in Africa Access Review (February 14, 2014)
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