Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The Name of the Tree: A Bantu Tale

Wallace, Ian (Illustrator)
Groundwood Books 2002. 36 pages
First published: 1989
ISBN: 9780888990976 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Dewey: 398
Book type: Picture Book
Book genre: Folklore

Text Elements:

character, dialogue, recurring patterns, setting

Awards

Mr. Christie’s Book Award – 1989
Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award – 1990

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

“Once, long ago, in the land of the short grass, there was a great hunger.” The steady rhythms of this folk tale make it a wonderful choice for reading aloud. Starving animals find a fruit-bearing tree, but it is only the king of the jungle who knows its name. And only with this name will the tree give its fruit.

First the gazelle attempts the quest, boasting of his speed, then the elephant, who boasts of her memory. Both forget the name on their return. The irritated lion king fiercely answers when the young tortoise tries: “I have told the gazelle and I have told the elephant and I will not tell you that the name of the tree is Ungalli.”

Soft-edged images seem to shimmer, as if under a beating sun. Children will appreciate detailed depictions of the savannah animals. The lion’s mane bristles as he roars. The tortoise’s sweet face peeks from under his shell, as he struggles through his successful return journey. The message that careful determination is required for important tasks will be clear to young readers. They may note that the gazelle and the elephant squandered their natural talents. In the end, this book will be most treasured for its cadence of language: “Ungalli, Ungalli, the name of the tree is Ungalli.”

  •  

    Discuss the lesson in this story. Do you know other stories with similar lessons (e.g. The Tortoise and the Hare)?

  •  

    Draw the animals from the story and write a caption for each, explaining why they did not succeed while the tortoise did.

  •  

    Talk about the structure of myths and folk tales, then write your own folk tale with a lesson.

  •  

    Decide how the illustrations add to the feeling of the story.

  •  

    Think-pair-share: What elements in the book indicate that it is fiction? Did the lion realize he revealed the name of the tree? 

  •  

    Use a graphic organizer to compare the personalities and the actions of the gazelle, the elephant and the tortoise. 

  •  

    A fable usually ends with a moral. Write one for this story.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To cooperate with others
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • Environmental Awareness and Consumer Rights and Responsibilities
  • Drama
  • Geography, History and Citizenship
  • Science and Technology
  • Visual Arts
  • The Tortoise & the Hare (J. Pinkney)