Children Bedtime Stories is a collection of folktales from South Sudan based on Ajok village’s oral traditions. The stories will interest readers of all ages who enjoy folk traditions, but their challenging vocabulary makes them less accessible to their target audience.
Written by three family members, Children Bedtime Stories present tales that have been passed down over generations. There are origin stories, parables, tales featuring hyenas, peaceful giants and more.
The collection’s strength is its variety, but because this is intended for young readers (the introduction notes that it’s aimed at grades one through six), additional context would be helpful in some instances. For example, one story describes a giant telling his wife to make a dish of wild cucumber when there’s no other food in the house. The giant then complains that the food was “bitter.” The narrator notes that the giant’s name became synonymous to someone who is greedy, but it’s unclear why. Knowing more about the culture would help readers better understand this tale.
Also, while some stories close with summaries of lessons learned, others do not. The takeaways from the latter may escape very young readers—especially those without a firm connection to South Sudanese culture.
Young readers are also likely to be puzzled by the complex vocabulary (“posterity,” “presumptuousness,” “vainglory”) used throughout. Minimal descriptions also make some of the stories difficult to picture, and while some entries receive multiple full-page illustrations, many receive no illustrations at all.
Finally, there are numerous punctuation and grammatical errors and odd word choices, such as “you should not count your chicken before they are hatched” and “He would go to the river and catch many fish in their varieties.” (The title is also problematic as “Children” should be “Children’s.”)
Children Bedtime Stories benefits young readers by expanding their world through stories from South Sudan, but it requires revision to address the aforementioned issues.
Also available as an ebook.