By Kirkus Reviews
In the beginning there was Elizabeti’s Doll (1998), then Mama Elizabeti (2000). Now, Stuve-Bodeen and Hale team up for a third installment in the series set in Tanzania. In this addition, Elizabeti is excited to start school. Hale’s mixed-media illustrations picture the preparation: in the opening spread, Mama braids Elizabeti’s hair; a trio of vignettes shows the girl as she tests out her new uniform, twirling her skirt and touching her shoes (‘No more bare feet!’ Elizabeti smiled. School must be a very special place”). But excitement soon leads to anxiety-and back again-as Elizabeti enters the schoolyard. At first Elizabeti pulls away from the action, relying on big sister Pendo for safe keeping; an invitation to join a game of machaura-American children will recognize the game as a variation of jacks-increases her comfort level. When Elizabeti goes home, however, her enthusiasm wanes. After all, her own shoes are much more comfortable than school shoes, her dress is softer and Moshi the cat has given birth to kittens right under Elizabeti’s bed. It is this event that signals Elizabeti’s change of heart, for she has learned in school how to count to five and uses her newfound skill to count the kittens. Soon, she shows off her knowledge of the alphabet and challenges her mother to a game of machaura. It’s enough to make her realize school might not be so bad after all. Throughout, Stuve-Bodeen distills the essence of the school experience, perfectly capturing a child’s emotional state and confirming the universality of first-day jitters. Accented with lively African-inspired paper, Hale’s illustrations contain the texture of Tanzania. Together, the talented team offers up another winning peek at a life that’s different but the same.