'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 29 September 2022

Review: Quickly! Quickly!

Some years ago, little Bongani sprung into life. I had this to say about him:

He ‘is impatient to grow and learn and be more than he is. His family temper his yearnings with humour and ancient fables to foster a sense of compassion and tenacity. As does Bongani, they eventually succeed.’

Bongani’s realisation came, Slowly! Slowly! It was how he learnt to catch his monkey but also learn self-temperance. Happily, Bongani is back in T M Clarke and Helene Magisson's latest edition of his life, Quickly! Quickly! 

Still too young to attend school, Bongani’s family encourage him to channel his impatience into tending the fields with them. Bongani accepts the quest with exaggerated determination, the kind so amusing and present in many young children.

‘Get away from my crops!’ Bongani berates the monkeys and crows.

Done with catching monkeys, Bongani appeals to his wise Grandmother about capturing and keeping a crow. When she asks why he wants to do such a thing, he explains that a scared-crow perched atop a scarecrow will warn the other crows to stay away. Grandmother cannot refute his logic and agrees to show him how to make a trap to capture a crow. She describes the need to be as quick and clever and crafty as a crow in order to conquer one. Now we all know how ridiculously ingenious crows and ravens can be so it’s with bated curiosity that we wait for the outcome.

Their first capture is a success except the crow outsmarts Bongani and escapes compelling him to try again. He notices the clever crow has positioned himself on Bongani’s handcrafted scarecrow, dutifully warning the other crows to, ‘Get away from my crops!’ Grandmother is suitably impressed then turns her attention to the mighty elephants who begin to circle their fields. Can a crafty crow out fool them, too? Such are the dilemmas of food production in Africa!

As with, Slowly! Slowly! Clark's Quickly! Quickly! prose is sincere and generous, sprinkled with enough alluring alliteration, repeating ideas and phrases to tease little ones into turning the pages while Magisson's illustrations are a magnificent match to this inspired story. Visually powerful yet sculptured with heart, they possess a glowing quality that encourages you to really explore every page for the treasures secreted within. 

This is (another) successful blend of art and story that is a pure joy to experience. Embracing the importance and power of patience, tenacity, family and working with nature rather than against, Clarke and Magisson have suffused the essence of African village life into a humorous engaging tale. And with the elephants afoot in Bongani’s village, I wonder how long it will be until he attempts his next important job.

Quickly! Quickly!
Author: T M Clark
Illustrator: Helene Magisson
Publisher: Wombat Books, $24.99
Publication Date: June 2022
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781761110832
For ages: 3 - 7
Type: Picture Book