- Also check our best rated Children’s Book reviews
Sundiata: Lion King of Mali Paperback – 21 Jun 1999
Customers who bought this item also bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
"Passed down through oral tradition, this historical account has the drama and depth of a folktale. The illustrations-elaborate collages inspired by the artifacts and culture of the Malinke-create a series of dramatic images. The intricacy of the paper-cuts and the richness of the colors and patterns give the artwork visula as well as narrative strength. In an appended note, Wisniewski discusses the history and art of West Africa as well as his research and technique for creating the illustrations. A striking interpretation."
"An appealing biography of Sundiata, credited as the founder of the Mali empire. . . . Wisniewski's characteristic artwork add to the drama of the tale and are consistent with the folkloric tone. The characters have personality and vitality, and the setting has a texture and richness that heightens climactic moments of the story. . . . All in all, another fine effort from a talented author/illustrator."
"A splendid resource; a fascinating meld of biography and legend." Kirkus Reviews with Pointers
About the Author
David Wisniewski (wiz-NESS-key) was born in Middlesex, England, in 1953. After training at Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, he spent three years as a clown, designing and constructing his own props, costumes, and gags. He was subsequently hired by his future wife, Donna, as a performer with a traveling puppet theatre. Married six months later, the Wisniewskis started their own troupe, Clarion Shadow Theatre, specializing in shadow puppetry. In the course of creating the plays, puppets, and projected scenery, Mr. Wisniewski evolved the storytelling techniques and art skills that eventually led to his picture books with their unique cut-paper illustrations. His retelling of GOLEM was awarded the 1997 Caldecott Medal. David Wisniewski died in 2002 in the Maryland home he shared with his wife and two children.
Top Customer Reviews
I googled the artist/writer David Wisniewski and was extremely sorry to discover that he died in 2002. On the evidence of 'Sundiata' he was amazingly talented and I wish he was still here to produce more books. Luckily I found that other books created by him were still available, so have ordered those as well!
The West African griot culture is an important part of the story of Sundiata. Griots were and remain the keepers of wisdom at the centre of an oral tradition. David Wisniewski creates wonderful pictures of the king's court and of a griot, Sundiata's teacher, from whom he is to learn 'the history of your ancestors and the laws of this life.' We also see pictures of the West African harp-lute, the kora, the musical instrument most associated with these teachers at the present time.
Myths, legends and fairy tales often contain the greatest wisdom. I especially enjoyed the scene where, encouraged by his griot teacher, the child Sundiata finally learns to stand up. The beginning of the making of a Lion King. This book would be an interesting present for any child, but especially, of course, for those who live in or have ties to West Africa.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Beautifully illustrated, and simply written it retells the life of the great culture hero Sunjata (variously spelled Sundiata, Son-Jara or other ways depending on the language and inclination of the translator).
According to the story, Sunjata defeated the sorcerer-king Suma'oro Kante and liberated the Manding people (of modern day Guinea, Mali, plus parts of Senegal, Gambia, Cote D'Ivoire and Burkina Faso) wielding them together into a great empire in the mid 13th century. To modern Manding poeple, Sunjata is roughly equivalent in stature to Abraham Lincoln, Moses or the first Qin Emperor.
This version is very close to the original tale as told by the griots of west Africa (check out D.T. Niane's "Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali" for a traditional telling of the story or, for the really adventurous, D.W. Johnson and Fa-Digi Cissoko's scholarly rendition "Son-Jara: An African Epic"). A sung version of part of the Sunjata fassa (epic praise poem) can be found on the CD "An Be Kelen (We are One): Griot Music from Mali" also available on Amazon.
Sunjata's story includes sorcery, prodigious battles, and the triumph of nobility over gossip and envy. For modern readers, an especially powerful feature is the famous story of Sunjata overcoming childhood disability (he is crippled and -in some versions, unable to talk) to become the leader of the Malian people.
One final critical point: While Wisniewski's version is fairly faithful to the original, it should be pointed out that key secondary figures (such as Sunjata's mother Sogolon Keju, his sister Nana Triban, Fran Camara (the king of the Blacksmith clan), and above all, Sunjata's griot Bala Fasseke Kouyate) are given little mention. Thus it replicates a western emphasis on key individuals rather than stressing the importance of each of the various segments of Manding society (men, women, siblings, parents, warriors, traders, sorcerers, griots, blacksmiths, farmers)which was an essential point in the original story.
This is a beautiful, skillfully-rendered book on an exciting topic. Sunjata belongs with the Viking Sagas and the Knights of the Round Table as a key example of world literature. Do yourself a favor and buy this book.