Analyzing a Picture Book to Determine If It Exposes Multicultural Ideas to Children

Topics: Children's literature, Caldecott Medal, Trickster Pages: 6 (1880 words) Published: February 9, 2011

Analyzing a Picture Book to Determine if it Exposes Multicultural Ideas to Children Claudia M. Torres
University of South Florida

APA Style Claudia M. Torres


Analyzing a Picture Book to Determine if it Exposes Multicultural Ideas to Children


The focus of this analysis will be Gerald McDermott’s picture book Zomo The Rabbit: A Trickster Tale from West Africa (1992). It is a tale of a clever rabbit and how far he is willing to go in his quest for wisdom. This picture book is highly recommended by the New York Public Library as one of 100 picture books everyone should know. The evaluation will use Betsy Hearne’s standards and criteria to examine if this book is authentic and true to its cultural background. The goal is to evaluate the picture book and determine if it meets those criteria and should the book be considered among the 100 best picture books for children. Picture Book Background

The story begins by describing the main character Zomo, a rabbit. He is described as being neither big nor strong but clever. Zomo wanted wisdom so he went to the Sky God and asked to be given wisdom. The Sky God explains that he must earn the wisdom and gives him “three impossible things.” He needs to bring the Sky God three things: the scales of Big Fish, the milk of Wild Cow and the tooth of Leopard. Zomo as the title of the book says is a trickster and is a very clever rabbit. He manages to trick Big Fish and gets his scales, then he tricks Wild Cow and gets the milk and finally using both some of the milk and the scales plus a rock he devises a plan to make Leopard slip and bang his head against the rock popping out a tooth. He takes all three items back to the Sky God to receive his wisdom. The Sky God explains that “Three things in this world are worth

ANALYZING A PICTURE BOOK 3 having: courage, good sense, and caution.” Zomo had lots of courage, some sense and no caution. So Sky God’s advice was next time he sees Big Fish, Wild Cow or Leopard that he “better run fast!”

Gerald McDermott has published many books and films for children. He is not only an author but an illustrator also. He has received the Caldecott Medal for his work on Arrow of the Sun and was a Caldecott honor recipient for Anansi the Spider. McDermott’s art for storytelling is not in question. The prose in the book is tight, very simple and easy to understand. His artwork is also meticulous and inspiring. His use of reds, oranges and green colors also help to attract and retain children’s attention. The question is not whether this book is captivating, funny or interesting for children but to understand where this particular piece of work by McDermott falls within the standards set forth by Betsy Hearne for folklore. Analysis and Literature Review

Multiculturalism and the idea that children should be exposed to other cultures and ways of life has gained momentum in the last decade, including in the classroom. Mendoza and Reese (2001) suggest that multicultural picture books allow young children a glimpse into another culture furthering their understanding of others while affirming other children’s diverse backgrounds. In essence, these picture books are the early foundation on which children will learn and develop their concept of other races and cultures as well as their own and should be examined closely. According to Smith & Wiese (2006), “The use of folktales in the...
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