PreS-K-``Long time gone in Africa there lived a man and a woman and their little baby.'' Mama Tandi works all day in the fields, leaving Papa Temba to watch Tabu. Temba, however, sleeps the day away and though the child is perfectly happy playing alone, to a mother elephant he looks ``just like a lost calf,'' so she lifts him on her back and carries him away. Temba rushes off in a rage to find him, but without success. It is Tandi, and the music from her marimba, that spurs the herd to return Tabu to his parents. The story is told with a folktale cadence and onomatopoetic words. The double-page paintings are open and filled with warm earth tones. The human characters are smooth-faced and pleasant-looking, and though their world is somewhat idealized, it is not out of keeping with this gentle tale. The worry and fear is all on the parents' side, for the toddler is delighted with the animal and when she lifts him onto her back, ``Twenty birds sang in his heart.'' Like many folktales, logic is not the main strength of the story. Why the elephants should want Tandi to play her marimba so they can dance and why this encourages them to return Tabu is not explained. The chief appeal of the book lies in the strong, accepting love depicted among the family members.-Karen James, Louisville Free Public Library, KY
"Long time gone in Africa there lived a man and a woman and their little baby." Every morning, hardworking Mama Tandi tends the fields and Papa Temba stays home to watch over baby Tabu. But Temba is a dreamer who sleeps on the job and leaves tiny Tabu playing alone in the sand. Watching from the forest, an old mama elephant decides Tabu looks just like a lost calf, so she gently carries the baby back to her herd. Papa Temba is useless at locating the elephants, for, at the sound of his crashing through the forest, clutching his mighty spear, the clever creatures simply turn their backs and turn into rocks. It is left to brokenhearted Mama Tandi to lure the elephants out to dance beneath the African moon and win her baby back with the music of her marimba. Unfortunately, the only documentation for the origin of this South African folktale is an inadequate note on the dust jacket: the author was told a version of this story "by a South Sotho woman who was married to a Swazi man" and "the story may have come from either of their tribes." Lilting and chatty, Deetlefs' retelling has a warm charm that is well matched by Gilbert's lush and exuberant illustrations. Young children will alternately envy Tabu his adventure with the dancing elephants and be comforted by his mama's resourceful rescue of her baby.