Tales from the Waterhole

Book review by
Marigny Dupuy, Common Sense Media
Tales from the Waterhole Book Poster Image
Five easy-to-read but unsatisfying animal tales.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that these stories about young animal characters living on the African savanna share a theme of summer fun and friendship.

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What's the story?

Five interrelated stories feature a group of animal friends who live on the African savanna. It is summer and the children are on vacation. Their lives revolve mainly around the local waterhole.

The main characters are Morris, a young crocodile, his younger brother, Little Bob, and his friend Billy, a young tortoise. In the first story, \"\"Fruit Salad Swimsuit,\" Billy makes an unkind remark about how Morris's mother looks in her new swimsuit. The pair make up in the end. The second story, \"Soccer Match,\" involves a soccer match between the kids (including a young elephant, rhinoceros, giraffe, zebra, lion, leopard, and wildebeest) and their respective mothers. The mothers win. In the third story Morris tries to impress Wendy Warthog with his skateboard trick on the diving board; in the fourth, Waldo Wildebeest's entire family goes on vacation; and in the last, Morris and his mother go clothes shopping with Gerard Giraffe and his mother for the upcoming \"long rains\" celebration that marks the end of the season.

Is it any good?

The collection of five easy-to-read stories is attractively packaged with extra heavy paper and bright, beautifully colorful watercolor, pastel, and ink illustrations. The stories, however, lack any real reason for being, the focus seems out of whack, and the language has a flat "Dick and Jane" quality. Morris, Billy, and Little Bob (whose names sound jarring in the African setting) have little individual personality and it is difficult to keep track of who is talking to whom.

The plots also seem jerky and disconnected. Though Morris and friends seem in every way to be young children, Morris spends a good part of two stories trying to flirt with the aloof Wendy Warthog. This makes little sense developmentally. Bob Graham's artwork is wonderful and the idea of the collection of stories is good, but not enough attention is paid to the writing and continuity.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the friendships among the animals. How do they show concern for one another?

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