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Monday, February 23, 2009

Mamy Wata and the Monster by Veronique Tadjo

February 23, 2009 –This post is dedicated to Tante Harriet and Tante Dedra, who help me to keep my memories of Cote d’Ivoire sweet.

Mamy Wata and the Monster written and illustrated by Veronique Tadjo
Reviewed by Sojourner Ahebee
Published by Milet Publishing

A few weeks ago, I was suppose to interview a girl from Kenya, who goes to college in the Philadelphia area. The interview was to be about how difficult things are in Kenya. Though I was honored someone thought enough of me and my abilities to do this interview, my heart was not in it. I know firsthand the challenges facing Africa, but that is all that seems to get reported.
My memories of Cote d’Ivoire, my African home, are sweet. I loved hearing the women move through the streets shouting attieke chaud, attieke chaud and the laughter of children playing soccer. I loved dressing up in gorgeous African fabrics, I loved visiting my doctor- Dr. Kassi- who was a French woman who married an Ivoirian man. I loved visiting the Banco Rainforest during the rainy season. I loved dancing at weddings and baptisms and first communion celebrations. I loved celebrating Ramadan and Tabaski with my Muslim friends. I loved the musicians who my parents invited to our home for parties and who played the balafon and the kora . I loved the food-fufu, sauce arachnid, sauce graine, sauce kedjenou, aloco, besop, grilled chicken and fish. I loved going to my grandfather’s village-N’Gattadolikro-in August for our family reunions. I loved our friends who were from all over the world. I loved the fact I could speak French and English and a little of my father’s language –Baoule.
My strongest memory of Cote d’Ivoire is of my family’s Sunday trips to the beach, in Grand Bassam. We often went to a guesthouse called Chateau Blanc and we spent the whole day having fun with the ocean. I have vivid recollections of my mother relaxing in a lounge chair and holding my baby brother while I played in the ocean with my father. My mother would shout to my father and me, when she thought we had gone too far into the ocean-You better watch out, Mamy Wata doesn’t save fools.
Veronique Tadjo is a writer from Cote d’Ivoire who used to visit my school-The International Community School of Abidjan- and read her books to the students. She now lives abroad. She writes books both for children and adults. I like her as a writer because she writes of the beauty of Africa and of its negative parts.
I grew up listening and reading her books and those of another writer named Fatou Keita. Veronique Tadjo’s Mamy Wata and the Monster is one of my favorites. Mamy Wata is a figure in West African folklore. Ask any West African and they can tell you who Mamy Wata is. Even the Africans who were brought to the Caribbean to work as slaves, brought their stories of Mamy Wata with them. So, Mamy Wata is a part of Caribbean folklore, too.
In Veronique Tadjo’s Mamy Wata and the Monster ,the reader is first introduced to Mamy Wata, a beautiful African mermaid who is clearly in charge of the water. Mamy Wata is kind and generous and shares the lakes, rivers and seas with all who needs them like fishermen, children playing or women collecting water for the community. But one day, she is warned that a monster is terrorizing the village communities. Veronique Tadjo is also the illustrator of this book and her colorful drawings are amazing. The artwork pulls the reader into the world of Mamy Wata and that of the monster that has swallowed many villagers. Mamy Wata, the protector of those who use her waters, discovers where the monster lives and waits to deal with him. She also discovers a very sensitive side to this monster and instead of approaching him with anger, she greets him with love. The monster is transformed by Mamy Wata’s kindness and the readers discovers, too, the interesting history of this monster who turns out to be a handsome, young man.
You’ll have to get this book to get all of the details. I hesitate to just call this book a children’s book, which is, because I, as a teenager, am still delighted by the story and the pictures. Get the book and discover some of the tales and characters of another culture.
Veronique Tadjo has some other amazing books for children and the young at heart. They are The Lucky Grain of Corn and Grandma Nana which I will review in upcoming posts.
These books of Veronique Tadjo’s are read around the world and are published in many languages. The copies I have are in English, English and Chinese, English and Vietnamese. She is beloved.
To order her books contact Milet Publishing at or email at .

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