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Payne, Won-Ldy and Margaret H. Lippert / ; Julie Paschkis (illus.) Head, Body, Legs: A Story from Liberia. New York: Henry Holt, 2002. $16.95, ISBN 0-8050-6570-9.
This didactic tale is common to many cultures. In this Liberian setting. The story illustrates how the “whole is greater than its parts” and how all “parts need to work in harmony.” The story also portrays the power of persuasion. Although the head is in command, it still needs the other body parts to help it pick a mango. As each new body part affixes itself, “Head” states: “This is perfect.” Only when the body parts are in their proper place on the torso and working together will “Head” achieve its goal.
The illustrations appear generic in terms of cultural context. The illustrator presents the body parts with black color which suggests an African or Asian setting. There are few other features from Liberia incorporated in the illustrations. The brightly-colored illustrations focus on the text and not the culture or ethnicity.
This story would have been a “perfect” situation for a bilingual publication. Names of body parts are some of the first vocabulary learned in a new language. Any number of Liberian languages could have been chosen to introduce a Liberian ethnicity and to give the book a Liberian flavor. Nevertheless, as the book stands, it would be useful in an English as a Second Language
class to supplement a unit on body parts.
Reviewed by: Patricia Kuntz, Ph.D. University of Wisconsin
Published in Africa Access Review (2002)
Copyright 2002 Africa Access