Cover image for The night has ears : African proverbs
The night has ears : African proverbs
Bryan, Ashley.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, [1999]

Physical Description:
1 volume : color illustrations ; 27 cm
A collection of twenty-six proverbs, some serious and some humorous, from a variety of African tribes.
General Note:
"A Jean Karl book."
Reading Level:
AD 420 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.2 0.5 2126.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN6519.A6 N54 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PN6519.A6 N54 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PN6519.A6 N54 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Ashley Bryan says, "My mother had a proverb for any situation, attitude, or event." Many of us have had the same experience. But have you ever heard, "As a crab walks, so walk its children" or "A log may lie in the water for ten years, but it will never become a crocodile"? These are two of the twenty-six African proverbs Ashley Bryan has chosen to illustrate in this book.
Having grown up with proverbs, it was no surprise to Mr. Bryan when he began reading African literature to find African proverbs along with African stories. The proverbs grew out of the lives and experiences of the varied African peoples.
Each proverb here is credited to a specific tribe, yet, as Ashley Bryan explains, most were known in other tribes as well. And in fact, all are true for people everywhere. We may not see crabs often, but we understand about crab children, and even people who do not have crocodiles nearby know that they do not begin as logs. This is a book to treasure for its rich universal wisdom and its gloriously evocative illustrations.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 5^-8. With one proverb per page, this collection of 26 African aphorisms provides an appetizing but small bite of African wisdom. Characterized by vivid concrete imagery, some selections deal with identity "while others are cautionary. Most are readily understood, and a few have familiar counterparts, i.e., "There is no one-way friendship." Some sayings are serious and some are humorous but all will stimulate thought and discussion. Each is credited to a particular tribe, but no sources are cited. Illustrated in Bryan's distinctive multishape, multicolor style, the tempera-and-gouache art resembles stained glass. Most pictures clearly reflect the imagery of the proverb, but a few require a closer look. A worthy supplement to cultural studies, this will also inspire students to write and illustrate their own proverbs. --Linda Perkins

Publisher's Weekly Review

In Bryan's (Aneesa Lee and the Weaver's Gift, reviewed below) thoughtful introduction to this eclectic collection of 26 African proverbs from various traditions (Yoruba, Gola, Maasi, etc.), he reflects on the "household of proverbs" in which he was raised. He suggests that "proverbs seek to raise meaning out of our daily experiences," and accompanies each saying with a gouache and watercolor illustration above the text. Like the interlocking shapes of stained glass windows, the paintings combine human and animal representations with complex, light-filled designs. At first glance, the artwork may seem repetitious, but close inspection reveals the intricacy and diversity of the compositions. Illustrating the Swahili proverb "Do not try to fight a lion if you are not one yourself," for example, Bryan balances seriousness and humor. He pairs a childlike face with a lion's nose and mane next to a more menacing, mask-like lion's face; both faces feature teeth queued across their mouths like the bars of a cage in a child's crayon drawing. Accompanying the stunning Ashanti proverb, "No one knows the story of tomorrow's dawn," the splintered sun hovers over stars and a sky-blue moon while a pair of roosters wait to crow. Though some proverbs seem directed more to adults than children, this is a book with words and art to ponder. All ages. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-5-This collection of proverbs represents a range of thoughtful admonitions and contemplations, both serious and humorous. The beauty of this work is in the many possible meanings these words will elicit. Whether considering the Krahn saying, "Never try to catch a black cat at night"; the Kpelle proverb, "As a crab walks, so walk its children"; or the Ashanti phrase, "No one knows the story of tomorrow's dawn," readers can imagine the stories behind these expressions. Each proverb has its own page and is interpreted with a colorful, energetic painting that extends the folkloric theme with playful symbols and figures. The tempera-and-gouache pictures with white outlines are reminiscent of woodcuts. This book will find an audience among families, discussion groups, and readers who relish discovering the wisdom of words.-Joan Zaleski, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.