"Once there was a man who was strong
," begins this energetic, comic-strip style adaptation of a Nigerian tall tale. Bragging to his wife one day, Shadusa says "Just look at these muscles! I must be the strongest man in the world. From now on, just call me... Master Man!" His wife Shettu warns him against his foolish boasting: "No matter how strong you are, there will always be someone stronger. And watch out, or someday you may meet him." When he learns that a man from another village calls himself Master Man, too, Shadusa soon rues the day he talked so big. Imagine his surprise when he discovers that the other Master Man eats entire elephants at one sitting, after killing them with his bare hands! Trying to escape from him, Shadusa runs smack into yet another
Master Man, who is soon locked in deadly combat with the elephant-eating one until "each gave a mighty leap, and together they rose into the air. Higher and higher they went, till they passed through a cloud and out of sight." To this day, the two giants still battle in the sky, making the noise that some people call thunder.
This traditional Nigerian story is one of many about fighting he-men, starring the stock character Mijin-Maza or Namji-Mijin-Maza, otherwise known as "A Man Among Men," "Manly Man," or "Superman." Caldecott Medal recipient David Wisniewski's playful cut-paper collages, set in comic-strip frames complete with speaking bubbles for dialogue, feature the colorful patterns and textures of Nigerian clothing and landscapes. With this unusual picture book, professional storyteller Aaron Shepherd spins a boisterous, action-packed read-aloud. The author's note in the back explains the story's origins with the Hausa, the largest ethnic group of northern Nigeria. (Ages 4 to 8) --Emilie Coulter
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From Publishers Weekly
A boastful strongman named Shadusa meets more than his match in this Nigerian story retold in comic-book panels with a slapstick bent. In earth-tone images that suggest the African savanna, the muscular Shadusa hefts giant chunks of firewood. He makes his wife call him "Master Man," even though she warns, "No matter how strong you are, there will always be someone stronger." Inevitably Shadusa hears of a rival Master Man, and when he investigates, he sees a fierce giant who wears cow-skull bracelets and devours elephants whole. Shadusa runs for his life and escapes only because a second giant challenges the first; the men's eternal battle makes a sound called "thunder. But now you know what it really is--two fools fighting forever to see which one is Master Man." Shepard's (The Sea King's Daughter) characters speak in white voice bubbles with bold black lettering, while descriptive words appear in small, sandstone-colored rectangles. Although the passages themselves read seamlessly, the book proceeds awkwardly due to the uneven balance of attention-grabbing dialogue and understated inserts. Wisniewski, whose labor-intensive cut-paper spreads lent gravity to myth in The Warrior and the Wise Man and Golem, plays for laughs this time. Shadusa flexes his muscles haughtily in the early pages, but his eyes bulge at the sight of his opponent. Some readers may dislike this undignified portrayal of a cowardly African tribesman and the allusions to cannibalism; others will appreciate a few of its similarities to "Jack and the Beanstalk" and Wisniewski's intricate artwork. Ages 5-up.
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