Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Review - Dan Auta: An African Tale

Dan Auta: An African Tale

by José Ortega y Gasset
illustrated by Piet Grobler
Date: 2022
Publisher: Greystone Kids
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 56
Format: e-book
Source: library

Kids 9 to 12 will laugh out loud while reading this adventurous graphic novel, which brings an African folk tale to life for a new audience.

When Sarra’s parents die, they leave her with an important warning: never let Dan Auta, her little brother, cry. But Dan Auta loves to make trouble. He hitches a ride on the back of a bird, pokes the eye of the king’s son, and even pees on the king’s head. Making sure he doesn’t cry is much harder than Sarra thought!

But Dan Auta’s unbridled curiosity and determination may be exactly what everyone needs: a terrible monster called the Dodo is attacking the city… and Dan Auta is the only one with the courage to take him on. Dan Auta features:

A delightful celebration of mischief and bravery
A portrait of the extraordinary things kids are capable of when they follow their own paths
Lively illustrations from renowned illustrator Piet Grobler
Supplementary material that explains the folk tale’s significance, including a note from an Eritrean translator

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I honestly don't understand why this book has such good reviews. It's a horrifically sexist tale in which a spoiled brat nearly gets himself and his sister killed three times, and then he gets handsomely rewarded with half a kingdom while all his long-suffering sister gets is the luxury of a nap.

This may be a traditional tale, but I don't know how well it's going to play to modern or Western audiences where girls actually have value beyond their uterus. In this story, a couple has a baby girl and they name her Sarra. They have another baby, who is much more important from the start because he's a boy. They name him Dan Auta.

Well, soon the parents die, and though they leave the kids with enough food to last until Dan Auta is old enough to farm the land, they also leave Sarra with an order: Don't ever let Dan Auta cry. As a result, the boy grows up as a spoiled, selfish brat who gets to do whatever he wants (because telling him off makes him cry). First, he burns down the granaries with all their food. So Sarra has to take him and try to find someplace to live where they can eat. They come to a kingdom, and one of the king's wives agrees to take them in. One day, Dan Auta gets bored and uses a stick to poke out the eye of one of the king's sons (this story is totally suitable for children, by the way), so they have to flee. As they're being pursued by the king's guards, they hide in a tree. Dan Auta gets bored and wants to pee on the king's head (no, I'm not making this up), and Sarra, not wanting him to cry if he doesn't get his way, lets him. So the king gets angry and chops down the tree. They fall onto a hawk's back and the bird flies them safely away. But then Dan Auta gets bored again and wants to stick his finger in the bird's butthole (I can't believe I'm actually writing this), and this leads to another near-death experience.

Anyway, eventually they come to another kingdom where a monster is terrorizing the populace every night. So of course Dan Auta saves the day, even though he's proven to be nothing but a useless, dangerous burden up until this point. Oh, and we've also got greedy citizens needlessly slaughtering their animals, so it's just a great, wonderful story all around. (I hope you can sense the sarcasm.) Dan Auta is treated like a king for saving the day, and all Sarra gets for keeping her little brother safe is a long-needed nap.

Frankly, I don't care if kids think the peeing on heads and anal rape of birds is funny. This book is gross. The story should've stayed where the afterword said it came from: 1912.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall Rating: 1.67 out of 5 ladybugs

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