Phillis Gershator







About me



Iroko Man

The Iroko-man
A Yoruba Folktale

illustrated by Holly Kim

Orchard, 1994

*Bank Street's Children's Books, 1994
*American Bookseller's "Pick of the Lists"
*Adventuring with Books, National Council of English Teachers, 1997

From the book jacket:

The Iroko-man, a tree spirit, is used to hearing prayers. When the women of the village kneel to him, begging that children once again be born to them, the Iroko-man asks a high price in exchange for his magic.
      One woman, Oluronbi, can offer only her firstborn; she has no corn, fruit, yams, goat, or sheep, like the others. The Iroko-man accepts.
     But when her baby is born, Oluronbi and her husband, a woodcarver, cannot bear to part with him.
     Furious, the Iroko-man casts a wicked spell upon Oluronbi--but the story, in all its cleverness, mystery, and exotic beauty, is far from done.

A little about the book:
I always disliked the ending of the Grimm Brothers' "Rumpelstiltskin"--it was so unjust, so unfair and cruel! When I read about the Iroko-man, I thought, There are similarities in these two tales. If I give it a twist, I'll make a point: there CAN be a happy ending, a THIRD way to resolve a conflict.

     One of my dearest friends is a mediator, and with this story, in a very small way, I felt that I, too, was contributing to his (our) vision of a better world.

     My father, Morton Dimondstein, an artist and collector of African art, opened my eyes to the power and beauty of African art, and gave me the statue which served as Holly Kim's model for the Iroko-man's baby.

From the reviews:

"In her first children's book, Kim creates sumptuous compositions of painted cut papers. Radiant backgrounds and such details as regional textile patterns suffuse her visual spreads with light and motion. A visual feast." Publishers Weekly

"A handsomely set out African 'Rumpelstiltskin.'" Kirkus

"The story has a more clever and satisfying climax than most: a wooden child for a wooden man! Rarely anthologized, this unusual tale, with its chants that invite audience participation, should have success in story times. It is just the sort of mildly frightening tale young listeners relish. An author's source note is appended." School Library Journal