Sense Pass King

Katrin Tchana

Book - 2002

Despite a jealous king's repeated attempts to get rid of her, Ma'antah continually manages to outwit him and proves herself worthy of the name Sense Pass King.

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Folk tales
Picture books
New York : Holiday House 2002.
Main Author
Katrin Tchana (-)
Other Authors
Trina Schart Hyman (illustrator)
1st ed
Physical Description
unpaged : ill
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

PreS.^-Gr. 2. A wise, brave child outwits the silly powerful king in this lively West African folktale. Tchana first heard the story from her husband, who heard it when he was growing up in Cameroon. In the original, the child is a boy, but Tchana makes her a girl. Ma'antah is a prodigy, who, from the age of two, can speak the languages of all seven villages and communicate with animals. Soon the people call her Sense Pass King because she is cleverer even than their ruler. He tries to destroy her, but she escapes all his traps, and eventually the people drive him away, make Ma'antah their leader, and live in peace and prosperity. The triumph of the small, smart hero over stupid authority has elemental child appeal, and Hyman's sunlit acrylic double-paged paintings capture the traditional village setting and the individual people in clear, glowing detail. Always at the center is the proud, sturdy girl, who confronts a seven-headed fiery monster with the same wit and courage that she uses to defeat the jealous despot. --Hazel Rochman

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

The mother-daughter collaborators behind The Serpent Slayer and Other Stories of Strong Women team up for another successful retelling, this time substituting a gifted girl for the customary boy who outwits his royal ruler. Ma'antah could "speak the languages of all seven villages and communicate with animals" by age two, and soon poses a threat to the king's ego. Tchana hits just the right notes as a storyteller; she gives enough details to set the scene, and her smooth pacing will keep readers on the edge of their seats, wondering how the heroine will outsmart the king next. Hyman's artwork suggests the African heat layers of gold silhouettes of trees and straw-colored huts on stilts with palm-frond rooftops are artfully set off by geometrically patterned fabrics in citrus tones. The paintings add another layer to the narrative; for instance, when the king first attempts to kill Ma'antah, he tells his soldiers to leave her in the heart of the forest where "the panthers and the snakes will take care of her." Tchana explains that the girl fills a sack with ashes and pokes a hole in it so she can find her way home, and Hyman's illustration picks up on her ability to talk to the animals, depicting Ma'antah astride a panther, with the snakes accompanying her safely out of the woods. Lots of action and smart thinking make this a winner for children, and adults will find here a welcome alternative to trickster tales, where intelligence is often associated with deviousness. Ages 4-8. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-In this retelling of a traditional tale, young Ma'antah displays such extraordinary cleverness that she earns the nickname, Sense Pass King. The jealous monarch makes repeated attempts to dispose of the child, but ultimately brings her to live in his palace. When he falsely takes credit for slaying a seven-headed sea lizard and saving his future bride, feats accomplished by the pint-sized servant, the villagers have had enough of his dishonesty and cowardice. They drive him out of the kingdom, crown Sense Pass King queen, and all live happily ever after. Children will delight in the youngster's ability to outsmart grown-ups and find her way out of seemingly impossible predicaments. Expansive spreads of lush acrylic artwork are filled with humorous and, at times, magical details. In the final scene, Queen Ma'antah rubs the head of a panther with a snake perched on its back, while a curious audience of lizards, monkeys, and people look on in wonder. Such fantastic images and a clever story line make this a satisfying addition to folklore collections.-Ajokei T. I. Kokodoko, Oakland Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review

(Primary) It's a familiar folklore plot-a small child becomes a threat to the ruling power and eventually takes over as ruler. By the time she is two, prodigious Ma'antah can ""speak the languages of all seven villages and communicate with animals."" The child's cleverness earns her the nickname Sense Pass King, indicating that she is smarter than the king himself; needless to say, the paunchy, pampered king is none too pleased. The child's skills take on tall-tale proportions as she first uses her wits and her way with animals to escape the king's attempts at murder, then becomes a patient servant in the king's household and goes on to win the trust of the emperor's daughter, a prospective child bride to the awful king. In retelling the tale, Tchana admits to adding a bit of contemporary feminism as she alters the gender of the hero-child in what she notes is an old tale from the Northwest province of Cameroon. She draws on many familiar motifs to weave an entertaining story of youthful heroics with a satisfying demise of the false-hearted king and a predictable message about the triumph of wisdom and goodness. Hyman's full-page paintings complement the deft narrative with a richly rendered cast of players in the throng of villagers, their free-roaming animals, the king's warriors, and the emperor's courtiers; her legendary sense of mischief provides lively accents as well, such as in a picture of chickens glaring reproachfully at Ma'antah carrying a plate of...chicken. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Rich colors and expertly posed people and animals bring both lushness and specificity to this gorgeously illustrated tale from Cameroon. "In the land of seven villages," a child named Ma'antah is born. By age two, she can speak all seven languages and communicate with animals. She is nicknamed Sense Pass King because she has more sense--and wisdom and capability--than the king himself. His two jealous attempts to kill her are thwarted by her cunning, and as the years go by, she grows smarter and more respected. The king, ever threatened, then takes her into his personal custody. On a voyage, Ma'antah--brought along simply to cook--earns the custodianship of a beautiful girl whom the sour king had wished to marry. An ocean must be crossed and a sea monster defeated before they return home--and guess who the hero is? Upon arrival, the king's soldiers refuse to let him steal the credit, and he is finally banished. Ma'antah is made queen, and in an ending refreshingly devoid of marriage, she and the other girl live on happily together. Hyman (Children of the Dragon, not reviewed, etc.) masterfully balances line and brush stroke: on one spread, a vast watery ocean in liquid greens conveys an entirely different texture from the red and yellow flames shooting upwards, while brilliantly poised on the edge of the ship, Ma'antah arches on tiptoe to shoot a bow and arrow. It's too bad that Hyman resorts to the stock stereotype of drawing the evil king as fat; otherwise, these riveting acrylic paintings shine with clarity, humanity, and beauty. (Picture book/folktale. 4-7)

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.