Review of Jim Averbeck's (Cameroon 1990-94) The Market Bowl

marketbowl_3001The Market Bowl
(Ages 5-8)
by Jim Averbeck (Cameroon 1990-94)
Charlesbridge, $16.95
32 pages

[Jim Averbeck in Cameroon ate many bowls of ndole (bitterleaf stew), like the kind the Mama Cecile and Yoyo make in The Market Bowl. He also enjoyed  dishes of boa constrictor, crocodile, and deep-fried termites. He is the author of In a Blue Room, a 2009 Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book.  He is also the author and illustrator of Except If and Oh No, Little Dragon!]

Reviewed by Thomas Weck (Ethiopia 1965-67)

The Market Bowl is a delightful story with an important message for young, impressionable minds.  Yoyo is an endearing young girl, but she has yet to learn the absolute necessity of honesty and fairness.  By taking an ill-advised shortcut, she puts her whole family’s livelihood in danger.  Through contrition, hard work and more than a little courage, in a drama filled scene, she is able to put things straight.  She learns a lesson she will never forget.

The copious full-color illustrations add to the enjoyment and present another way of ‘telling’ the story.  In and of themselves, they help convey the different customs and lifestyles of the Douala peoples of the Cameroon.  Extra features that add to the overall high quality of the book are: 1) at the the beginning, instructing the reader how to pronounce key words in the Cameroon culture; 2) at the end, a concise description of the Cameroon complete with a map showing its location in Africa; 3) also at the end, the extra bonus of the recipe for Bitterleaf Stew with careful consideration of suitable substitute ingredients when native ingredients may not be available.

Overall, this story is an excellent read, bedtime or anytime, that will surely be read more than once.

Tom Weck (Ethiopia 1965–67) is the founder of Lima Bear Press and has created a series of children’s books for 4–8 year-olds called The Lima Bear Stories.

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