Interesting! Many people don't realize that the Twin Cities is home to the largest Somali community outside of Somalia itself. Somali Minnesotans have been recruited to join Al Shabab - a group labeled as terrorists by the US government. Minnesotan Somalis have died in their home country fighting Ethiopian and Kenyan troops. In the wake of Al Shabab's recent siege of a mall in Nairobi, Minnesotans were implicated in the massacre. And in recent years, wo Somali Minnesotan women have been accused of raising funds on behalf of Al Shabab. Doubts exist as to the truth of some of these claims. Still, with a number of my neighbors having moved from Somali to Minnesota in the last decade, my family and I need to make an effort to better understand Somali culture. Toward that end, Sigourney and I read The Ogress and the Snake and Other Stories from Somalia
There's great value in reading folktales from unfamiliar cultures. I never cease to be amazed by the similarity of themes. Laird shares stories of tricksters, beautiful princesses, chivalrous rescuer princes, talking animals, victorious underdogs, and such. There's a three-day stay in the belly of a whale, which reminds of the biblical tale of Jonah. Prodigals return in "The Ogress and the Snake", but instead of a wayward son, foolish parents play the role of chastened returnees. There's a major dose of happily ever after. We're not so different at the level of story, really.
My only real complaint? The simplistic, somewhat childish black-and-white illustrations by Shelley Fowles. Sigourney reacted with the toddler equivalent of "whatever!" when I showed them to her. I agree with her. They're boring. Vibrant illustrations would increase children's interest level dramatically, I think. The stories deserve better supporting illustrations.