Songs from the Baobab: African Lullabies & Nursery Rhymes is a beautiful collection of 26 songs and rhymes sung in various cultures throughout Africa. There are several playground and nursery rhymes also included.
This is a spirited collection of songs and rhymes appropriate for children from preschool to second grade. The book opens with illustrations of children, animals, and people in community with one another – especially mothers with children. Each page introduces lyrics to the songs and rhymes in English and the title of the song and its country of origin is highlighted. In the middle of the book, there are lyrics for each song in the original language as well as an English translation. There is a brief explanation of the song below its translation, and small illustrations dot the margins. At the end of the book, there is a map of Africa with the various countries notated, and an explanation of the languages of each song and the areas of origin. Each of the songs from the book is included on the accompanying CD.
These are not typical lullabies. Several of these songs are lively, not like the gentle and sober songs often thought of as lullabies. One such song is “So diyara” a song from the Ivory Coast which means, “The Joyful House.” This song features three women singing to a sanza and celebrates marriage and family. The song “Uélé molibá mákási” is a lovely and gentle song from Congo and is akin to what most people expect to hear sung as a lullaby. Part of the appeal for this song is that a child’s voice leads and ends the song. That small, sweet voice sets the tone for the rest of the lullaby, and though it is sung in Lingala, it is easy to imagine an English speaking child learning the repeated verses with ease.
Songs from the Baobab does not contain any advertisement or inappropriate content. I would have no reservations making a recommendation of this book to a parent for lullabies for their children. In School Library Journal Review, Beverly Wrigglesworth of the San Antonio Public Library in San Antonio, Texas wrote, “This excellent production will be a boon to units or programs on Africa as well as multicultural studies.” I wholeheartedly agree with her recommendation, but I would go as far as to recommend this volume to any parent and child at any time. These songs would be fitting in any lullaby programming or rhyming story time.