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Yatandou Review by Lyria Moore

Gloria Whelan
Sleeping Bear Press
310 North Main Street, Suite 300
Chelsea, MI 48118

Have you ever wondered how children in different countries live? If your child is wondering or you're beginning to teach them about different countries, this book would be a good story to use as an introduction to the country of Mali.

Yatandou lives in a rural village in Mali. Her life is very different from that of most children in the USA. She gets up when it's just becoming light, and she can't go to school because she has important duties to attend to. If she doesn't do her part, her family will suffer. She does have a friend who lives nearby and a type of pet. (The way she got the pet reminded my daughter of Fern in Chralotte's Web.) Though she has these diversions from her job-laden life, she can't really enjoy them as she would like. One day her mother tells her of a machine that will make life a bit easier for her. Yatandou looks forward to its arrival, and when it finally comes, she celebrates by putting her responsibilities away. There is still work to be done by everyone in the family, but she can put away the heavy weight that was on her shoulders. This wonderful change did come with a price for Yatandou, but she seems content in her new life.

This story was heartwarming. In the beginning we are told a little history of Mali. Then the family is introduced, and the story moves along. The author, Ms. Whalen, tells the story in a halting way. There are sentences grouped together with a space between them. Each grouping has a different idea being expressed. This caught me off guard at first. I was expecting the story to flow like other stories do. It took me a while to appreciate to the style. With all the breaks in your thought pattern, you are forced to settle down and get lost in Yatandou's world. The halting style actually aids the story very much. It's like Ms. Whalen is revealing a little bit more of who this little girl is and who her family is with each break. I found myself being carried along with the rhythm. I can only guess that this is the rhythm Ms. Whalen felt when she visited Africa.

This story is a charming book to read to your little ones. It will give them an appreciation for all the things they have in the USA that can be taken for granted so easily. It's very easy to identify with Yatandou. Ms. Whalen did a wonderful job conveying the fact that little girls are little girls no matter where they live.

Product review by Lyria Moore, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October 2007