Even in the very crowded world of children’s books about talking animals, The Jungle Storytelling Festival stands out for two reasons. Ostroo the Ostrich stammers, and is derided by the other creatures when he wants to participate in the storytelling festival. Slinking away to hide his tears, he comes across Mouse mamma and her two baby mice who teach him to sing his tale. As a talented singer who has been conducting storytelling and sing-along workshops for children for years, Janaki Sabesh taps into the power of singing to overcome stammering. This enabling tale is simultaneously enriched by the very power of storytelling. My quibbles are minor. The animals could have been given more creative names—Ostroo for Ostrich and Squirry for squirrel are lazy and unimaginative. Other animals don’t have names at all. The exceptions are the definitely nice names for the baby mice, Eli and Meli. The story would have been enriched by the actual tale that Ostroo told at the festival—we learn that it was about how he got his long neck—and we want to know how! Perhaps the book could have ended with that being the tale for next time, to create a sense of anticipation. The illustrations are delightful, and do much more than complement the pictures—they tell a parallel tale, for the stories told by the monkey, the tortoise and the lion at the festival are not spelt out in words. This book will help its readers recognize the multiple languages—words and pictures—in which a tale can be told: an undeniable masterstroke!
THE JUNGLE STORYTELLING FESTIVAL/THE FORBIDDEN FOREST; TROUBLE IN THE FORBIDDEN FOREST by Janaki Sabesh/Kay S. Tulika Books/, 2019, 32 pp., 195/165
November 2019, volume 43, No 11