BOOKS: Children - Ethiopia
Silly Mammo: An Ethiopian Tale
Gebregeorgis Yohannes and Bogale Belachew

(in English and Amharic) This popular Ethiopian folktale, told here in English with Amharic translation, resembles the story of Silly Jack and all those other stories of the foolish boy who gets everything wrong. When Mammo's loving mother sends him to work, he loses his wages, so she scolds him and tells him to put them in his pocket next time. The next day he finds work with a cattle herder, who pays him with milk, and remembering his mother's words, Mammo pours the milk in his pocket. The farce escalates until Mammo's wild mess-up makes a beautiful young woman laugh, which cures her of her inability to speak and prompts her grateful, wealthy father to allow Mammo to marry his daughter.

The Perfect Orange: A Tale from Ethiopia
Frank P. Araujo and Xiao-Jun Li

Discovering a perfect orange in her Ethiopian mountain village, Tshai travels to the city to tender her prize to the King. When the girl passes the house of the Lord Hyena, the jeering animal scorns her silly gift. But the ruler himself is so moved that he tries to reward Tshai with riches. When she refuses, Nigus orders his Royal Chamberlain to follow her and give her a donkey whose saddle bags are filled with gold and jewels.

The Garbage King
Elizabeth Laird

Dani is a rich, fat kid, failing at school, who runs away from his bullying dad. Orphan Mamo, kidnapped and sold as a slave to a cruel farmer, escapes and returns to the city. The runaways meet in the city cemetery, where they hide out until they join a gang of homeless kids. Under the direction of their stern leader, the gang members care for one another and share everything, including what they scavenge from the garbage and beg from passers-by. A friendship story of fear and hope that will draw in readers.

Fire on the Mountain
Jane Kurtz and E.B. Lewis

This is a well-known Ethiopian folktale about a clever shepherd boy and his sister. In exchange for a bag of money and four cows, Alemayu accepts a challenge from his sister's boastful, rich employer to spend the night alone on a mountain with minimal clothing and without a fire. He survives the bitterly cold night by concentrating on a shepherd's fire across the way on another mountain. The haughty man refuses to pay him, stating that looking at someone else's fire is the same as building one's own-until the siblings devise a plan that allows the man to see the foolishness of his reasoning.

Pulling the Lion's Tail
Jane Kurtz and Floyd Cooper

A retelling of the Ethiopian folktale "The Lion's Whiskers." In the traditional story, a new stepmother learns to be patient in drawing her stepson into accepting her. Kurtz's version has a female child as the central character, emphasizing her persistent attempts to reach out to her father's new wife after her mother's death. The details of mourning and her daily life make the forlorn Almaz seem real, and the respectful warmth of her relationship with her wise grandfather is sensitively portrayed.

When the world began: Stories collected in Ethiopia
Elizabeth Laird

Twenty tales, myths, and extended jokes paint a picture of a vibrant culture, open to the world around it. The title story tells how people stole the gift of dominance from God's favorite creature, the buffalo, and is followed by selections that explain such things as how the tortoise got her shell, how one might best depose a tyrant, and how arrogance and pride are answered. Some stories are reminiscent of Aesop and some of Perrault. The fluid recountings read aloud or tell equally well. Folktale enthusiasts who prefer to read their stories will find the tales extended by the work of four artists.

The Story of Coffee
Sultan Mohamed

The beans that a young Abyssinian shepherd boy brings home are too bitter to eat, but his mother discovers that after being roasted, they make a wonderful drink.

The Road to Bethlehem: An Ethiopian Nativity
Elizabeth Laird

With unique style and skill, Laird has compiled an Ethiopian nativity based on a composite of ancient texts which recounts the familiar epic of Joseph and the Virgin Mary, Christ's birth and the flight into Egypt. Informative explanations of symbolic content and historical detail accompany vellum paintings, photographed from the British Library's collection of period manuscripts. These interpretations help the reader understand an exotic culture and its ways. There is much to digest: a foreword by Terry Waite; a summation of Christianity's origins in northern Africa; and the modern translation itself. This book will best suit readers whose curiosity will be aroused by such an intriguing subject, or those mature enough to appreciate the intricacies of the effort. All ages.

The Miracle Child: A Story from Ethiopia
Elizabeth Laird

Retells the life of a thirteenth-century Ethiopian who performed many miracles for his people, such as feeding the hungry during a famine and raising the dead to life. Illustrated with paintings from an eighteenth-century illuminated manuscript.

The Storyteller's Beads
Jane Kurtz

This harrowing story set in Ethiopia during the 1980s features an unexpected friendship between two girls of different religious backgrounds. Threatened by war, famine, and drought, Sahay and her uncle set out from their small Kemant village to find safety in the Sudan. Rahel, a blind Jewish girl, and her brother also flee the country as part of a group of Beta-Israel planning to make an aliyah to Jerusalem. As part of the same band of refugees, the girls make a long, difficult trek across the mountains. When the men are turned back at the border, Rahel and Sahay are left on their own to finish the journey.

Only a Pigeon
Jane Kurtz

There is gentleness in the words and light-filled watercolors of this picture book about a poor Ethiopian boy in the city of Addis Ababa who cares for the homing pigeons that are precious to him. Ondu-ahlem owns almost nothing. He shares a mat and blanket with his two younger brothers, walks three miles to his crowded school, and earns money shining shoes in the afternoon; but he tends his pigeon coop with infinite care, guarding against hungry predators, holding the eggs that are almost ready to hatch.