The Tortoise and Other Animals by Chuks L. Emele is the first of a children's series launched by The New Gong Publishers to help combat the dearth of the African perspective in the stories to which children, our children, are exposed in their early formative years.
Emele, the author of the three stories in this collection, recalls growing up as a child reading Jack and Jill went up the hill at school, and going home to listen to folktales from his mother at night. He had gained from the exposure to the two streams and now realizes that it has become a rare privilege for many of the young people of today, who didn’t have the luck to inhabit two worlds, the Western European and the African, like he did.
As Westernization continues its march, backed by imperial imperatives, the African viewpoint is often lost, whatever its merits.
In this book targeted at children of nursery and primary school age, Emele recalls some of the folktales he heard from his mother as retained in his memory. These traditional Igbo folktales do have varying forms and narratives, and no one can necessarily be said to be the authentic, final version given the public nature of the art, by which it changes form and content depending on the milieu. What Emele has done in this first installment of The New Gong’s Children’s Series, is to render as best as he can in English, the folktales he heard in his native Igbo as a child.
In its bid to help increase the reading list of children’s books with the African perspective, The New Gong is seeking more Chuks Emele’s out there. The intention is to reflect the full breadth and range of African story telling aimed at children, in all their variety and at their didactic best.