Songs in the Shade of the Cashew and Coconut Trees

Ages: 3 - 10Producer: The Secret Mountain Artist: Nathalie Soussana and Jean-Christophe Hoarau (author/editors) and various artists


There are many ways to enjoy this rich exploration of songs from countries in West Africa and the Caribbean, curated by Nathalie Soussana. It is a listen-along picture book to begin with, each page featuring a lyric excerpted from each of the 23 songs on the CD, set against artist Judith Gueyfier’s lushly colored, detailed illustrations. This is followed by a map showing the many countries represented here, with thoughtful text about the countries’ histories, languages, and traditions, and about the importance of music as a means of communication, as an expression of freedom, and as a fundamental part of family and community life. The next pages spotlight each song, identifying where it comes from, the singers and featured instruments. There are interest-kindling background notes, too, and lyrics in English and in the language of the country of origin. The well-produced tracks are as varied as a waltzing lullaby (Ninância), a tender reminiscence of a grandmother’s stories (Gongon), both from Cape Verde; a lively story song, Hormiguita retozona) from Cuba about a little ant who learns that there is a time for play and a time for helping others; and from Haiti, a gentle plea for help addressed to Papa Danmbala, the snake god of peace and justice.

Lynne Heffley ©2019 Parents’ Choice

A freelance writer and editor for the arts and non-profit organizations, Lynne is a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, where she established the paper’s first weekly children’s arts and entertainment beat.

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