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The Night Before Christmas in Africa

The Night Before Christmas in Africa

By: Jesse, Hannah, and Carroll Foster 
Illustrated by: Jean Christodoulou
Published by: Pelican Publishing
Publication Date: September 2010
ISBN: 978-1589808478
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: October 2010

It was the night before Christmas
On the African plain
And all of the Shangaan
Were longing for rain.

So opens the wonderful tale of Christmas Eve on the African plain, where the children were fast asleep on mats on the floor of their huts, dreaming of monkeys. The cattle were thirsty and the crops were wilting. While mother was getting pots ready for the fire, father sits and listens for rain, hoping that the drought would soon end.

As father waits, he hears a noise in the distance. Could it be thunder? No, it’s not a storm brewing but rather a donkey cart driven by six kudu (African antelope) and one very large rhinocerous. Sitting in the cart is one rather plump, bearded man dressed in red and white.

He said, “Sawubona,”
With a wink and a smile,
Then asked what it was
I wished for all the while.

This tale of Christmas on the African plain is unique and quite imaginative. We see the daily lives of those living on the plain and the simple things the children wish for at Christmas. It’s an excellent introduction into the lives and customs of another culture for young readers. I loved how the authors (Carroll Foster and her two daughters) incorporated African words into the poem. These terms blended perfectly and there’s a glossary in the back with all the definitions. Your child may just be wishing iba nokisimusi omuhle (Happy Christmas to you) to his/her friends and family after enjoying this story.

Quill says: A lovely Christmas poem about Father Christmas, a cart full of gifts, and a family thankful for the simple things in life.

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