Okapi Tale by Jacob Kramer, illustrated by K-Fai Steele

Okapi Tale by Jacob Kramer, illustrated by K-Fai Steele. Enchanted Lion, 2020. 9781592703043

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Genre:  Animal fiction

What did you like about the book? In the town of Beaston, Noodlephant and her friends enjoy a machine they invented which turns anything into noodles. Animals come from all over to make noodles from the machine. When greedy Okapi arrives into town, just as Noodlephant is embarking on a trip, he buys the machine and starts charging money for the noodles; he builds a big factory where all the animals have to work harder and harder to buy food. Life is hard and feels unfair. When Noodlephant gets home, she organizes a slowdown at the factory, which culminates in a stoppage and a vote on who really owns the noodle machine. Okapi loses, is impeached (is run out of town by animals throwing peaches at him) and life returns to normal.

The story is a parable about capitalism, democracy and the benefits of organizing. While the metaphor about big business versus the public good will go over the heads of the intended audience, kids will get that the animals should have a say in what’s fair. All the terms for noodles – Italian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean – will delight young noodle lovers. The illustrations are great – Steele’s watery colors and heavy black outlines create very appealing animal characters and scenes, and can be enjoyed on their own.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I thought that the message was heavy handed, and that the story would have benefitted from a deep edit, with less political commentary, so that readers could form their own opinions.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Fans of Noodlephant by the same author and illustrator, should be happy to read this. For ages 5-9.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: February 7, 2021

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