This review of Pearls of Wisdom is from Multicultural Perspectives: Part VI Guide to New Resources: The Official Journal of the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME). Copyright © 2008 by NAME. It was written by Ann Berlak, as explained below:
| Pearls of Wisdom
by Raouf Mama and Mary Romney
© 2001 Pro Lingua Associates
Mama, R., Romney, M. (2001). Pearls of wisdom: African and Caribbean folktales. Brattleboro, VT: Pro Lingua. Text, 78 pages, $16.50 (softcover). ISBN 0-86647-134-0; Workbook, 72 pages, $15.00 (softcover). ISBN 086647-136-7; two cassettes, $12.50. ISBN 0-86647-135-9.
During my early years, I vividly recall sitting on our front porch on warm summer nights with my brothers and sisters, at my grandmother's feet, as she told us Haitian folktales. The winds would gently blow in unison with my grandmother's rocking chair as she rocked to and fro. The stories would captivate us and whirl us into worlds of make believe and morality as we sucked on our peppermint candies, as this too was a very important part of the storytelling ritual. Needless to say, we enthusiastically looked forward to both stories and candy. My grandmother has long passed away, but her memory and the stories continue to live on in our hearts.
Unfortunately, due to migration to other countries, particularly to the United States, many Haitian children have lost or never experienced the rich oral tradition of storytelling from the elders. Those who have experienced it (once upon a time) yearn for those special moments once again, and those who only know of the existence of the stories want desperately to experience this tradition. Well, Mama and Romney have captured these African and Caribbean folktales and created a masterpiece of educational material to continue this tradition.
The listening and reading book, Pearls of Wisdom, begins with an explanation of folktales as a form of literary art found in every culture in the world. These folktales are divided into four broad categories: explanatory tales, sacred tales, trickster tales, and cautionary tales. Each of 116 the tales from Benin, Nigeria,Gabon, Antigua, Haiti, Cape Verde, Puerto Rico, or Congo are placed under one of the categories stated above where readers can clearly see the fit between the categories and the tales. For example, many of the explanatory tales describe the origins, behaviors, and appearances of certain animals. In the tale, How the chameleon became a teacher, from Benin, the readers learns why the chameleon blends with his surroundings and walks slowly and carefully. An unfortunate incident with a crocodile taught the chameleon to be prudent and wise at all times. In turn, he teaches readers to "think long and hard before putting a foot forward" (p. 2).
The authors also provide a brief history of the transatlantic slave
trade that took place from 1519 to 1867 (p. xi), thus creating an African
diaspora. African diaspora is defined as "the phrase describing
the various groups of people of African descent who live outside of
Africa" (p. xi). In the new lands, the Africans transferred and
continued many of their cultural traditions.