African Proverbs for All Ages

African Proverbs for All Ages

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African Proverbs for All Ages is a beautifully-illustrated, engaging picture book about the power of proverbs, how they evolve over time, and the wisdom of various cultures in Africa.
It has been said that a proverb is a short sentence based on long experience.

Whether you are young or old, proverbs can open your mind to a whole new way of seeing the world. We underestimate children when we assume they are incapable of understanding metaphor and deeper meaning. There are multiple ways that children learn, but for each method by which they learn, they need their imagination engaged and their visual sensibilities ignited. And as adults, we underestimate ourselves when we allow our lives to be about practical matters only. Proverbs can stir our soul and spark our imagination. --Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Ph.D. President Emerita of Spelman and Bennett Colleges

In African Proverbs for All Ages, noted anthropologist and educator Dr. Johnetta Betsch Cole and award-winning illustrator Nelda LaTeef invite children and adults to explore and reflect on complex notions about relationships, identity, society, and the human condition.

A Roaring Brook Press and Oprah Book

 

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An Author's Note

It has been said that a proverb is a short sentence based on long experience.

Whether you are young or old, proverbs can open your mind to a whole new way of seeing the world. We shortchange our children when we assume they are incapable of understanding metaphor and deeper meaning. There are multiple ways that children learn, but for each method by which they learn, they need their imaginations engaged and their visual sensibilities ignited. And as adults, we shortchange ourselves when we allow our lives to be about practical matters only. Proverbs can stir our souls and spark our imaginations.


This book, drawn from the wisdom of the diverse cultures of Africa and stunningly illustrated by my friend and acclaimed artist and author Nelda LaTeef, fully engages children by presenting four proverbs with each illustration. Readers may then choose which proverb they believe best narrates the illustration. The book also invites children and adults to step into what are sometimes complex notions about life, relationships, identity, society, and the human condition. When words fail us, proverbs are a bridge between the adult and the child mind. They are a gateway to deeper connections and understanding.

There are no people without conversations. But with proverbs, every conversation is sure to be rich and memorable. As an anthropologist, I have witnessed how proverbs are used by individuals to warn, instruct, or advise.

Proverbs are drawn from the community well. No one person is the author of a proverb. In this book, we have culled proverbs from the various cultures of Africa, the continent from which we have all descended. Wherever possible, we have credited proverbs with their specific country of origin; when not possible, we have attributed them to the continent of Africa. In instances where the same proverb has multiple variations, we selected the most compelling version.

Readers may be reminded of sayings from their own cultures that offer the same teachings as the proverbs in this book, but with different words. In this way, proverbs are conveyors of insights that may be universally accepted as valid. There is an African saying, "A wise person who knows proverbs can reconcile difficulties." Where the language of the material world may fail, proverbs transcend our differences and remind us of our common humanity.

Proverbs can and do evolve as cultures transform. That is why Nelda and I encourage children to create and make drawings to illustrate their own proverbs and, in so doing, to have a deeper conversation with themselves and with the world in which they live.

-Johnnetta Betsch Cole, PhD

 


 

 

 

 

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