Mabela the Clever

November 28, 2017
Subheader: 

Clever girl.

Review: 

It's not bad. It's got a good message. It's apparently based on a story from the Limba people in the Sierra Leone area of Africa. It's kind of a tale of "the ancient times" where there are a bunch of mice and a cat. The cat is clever and the mice are stupid, except for Mabela the mouse, whose father taught her cleverness. The cat comes to the mice and says, "Dear mice, I come to offer a special invitation. It has been decided that the mice may join the secret Cat Society!" All the mice fall for this, of course, and all of them go to the cat's house at the arranged time, and the cat teaches them all the secret Cat Society song, which goes: "When we are marching, we never look back! The cat is at the end, fo feng! Fo feng!" So they march into the forest in a line, the cat at the end of the line, singing the song loudly, and as they walk, the cat takes the mice from the rear one-by-one and puts them in a sack. Mabela, as the smallest, is in the front. She starts realizing that fewer mice are singing, and then dives into the bushes and the cat gets stuck in some thorns and she frees the mice from the bag and wins.

It's a good example of a story where cleverness wins the day versus cleverness rather than versus fools. She's not particularly clever, though, she's just observant and surrounded by oblivious mice. It's kind of interesting that Mabela is specifically taught cleverness by her father. I'm not sure whether that's good because it shows the father in a nurturing role, or bad because the male is the one who is clever. I'm also not sure why the father isn't also clever. Maybe he teaches it to her without knowing it himself? It certainly implies that he is in the line of mice as well.

The explicit message, printed in the text of the last page, is, "If a person is clever, it is because someone has taught them their cleverness."

I wasn't that interested in the art style. It's kind of strange. And the fact that the story relies on everybody in the story other than the cat and Mabela being complete idiots is what separates this from being higher-rated.

Message: 

Pay attention to what's going on around you so that dangerous things don't happen to you.

Publication Year
  • 2001
Age Range
Age Range: 
4-7
Number of Pages
Number of Pages: 
29
Number of Words on Typical Page
Number of Words: 
50

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