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Animal Village 

Reviews and Awards:

-IBBY HONOR LIST 2021 (International Board on Books for Young People)
Country: Ghana    Category: Illustrator

-CABA 2019 Honor Book for Young Children

-Storytelling World Honor Award 2019, 

-Kirkus Reviews' Best Indie Books of 2018

-Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of the Month, June 2018

-Starred Kirkus Review 2018

-2018 Next Generation Indie Book Finalist (Picture Book 6 Years & Up)

-Literary Classics Seal of Approval 2018 (Award winning children's book, Award winning children's picture book, Best books for children)

-2018 Literary Classics International Book Awards: GOLD MEDAL (Folklore)
                                                                                  SILVER MEDAL (Picture Book) 

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 Animal Village, selected by the United Nations SDG Book Club to help children learn about the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal #13: Climate Action. Greta Thunberg's book, No one is Too Small to Make a Difference, among the three recommended books on the Reading List.


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Animal Village named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Indie Books of 2018

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2018 Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist

Literary Classics Seal of Approval 

Gold Medal and Silver Medal

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Storytelling Magazine: Storytelling World Resource Award

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Summary: A tortoise saves her village from the ravages of drought with wisdom passed down from an "old story."



"A group of animals tries working together to save a village in this picture book based on an African story....LaTeef is an author/illustrator to watch." 

                                                                                           --Starred Kirkus Review


"Animal Village is a lovely tale with an enduring message of strength in humility and the power of persistence."   

                                            --LITERARY CLASSICS Book Awards & Reviews


                  Available in English, French, and Spanish editions.

Awarded the Kirkus Star, one of the most 

prestigious designations in the book publishing 

industry signifying a book of exceptional merit.



A group of animals tries working together to save a village in this picture book based on an African story.


In West Africa, there is a peaceful village of only animals, ruled by Chief Zamboha, the lion. But one year, their tranquility is interrupted by a drought that lasts long past the dry season. Zamboha asks all the creatures for ideas, and tortoise Timba tells the group about a tale from their ancestors that said water could be found by digging. While the community is skeptical, Zamboha supports Timba, and the animals begin to dig. They dig for days and days, and finally they grow tired and doubt the tortoise’s supposed wisdom. Faced with a rebellion, Zamboha watches helplessly as the villagers tell Timba to leave. Although the tortoise is determined to never go back, she pauses near a dry riverbed and decides to dig once more. Soon she finds water, and, despite the rejection of her cohorts, she returns to share it with them. Overjoyed, the animals make her their chief. LaTeef (The Hunter and the Ebony Tree, 2002, etc.) skillfully captures the folktale’s flavor, using repeated refrains—especially Timba’s “everything is possible, by and by”—to reinforce the story’s themes. While the message is powerful, it’s the acrylic, India ink, and collage images that will command children’s attention. The collage aspect gives the animals depth and texture, and the contrast of the earth tones with the bright blue water is stunning. LaTeef is an author/illustrator to watch.


World folktale collections should welcome this beautifully illustrated volume.  — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)





                                                                                                Animal Village earns the Literary Classics Seal of Approval

                                                                                                                 Gold Medal and Silver Medal




                                                                                          Literary Classics is an organization dedicated to promoting excellence in literature. Through our AWARDS, BOOKSREVIEWS, and SEAL OF APPROVAL PROGRAM, we help you sort through the many books in circulation today. It is our goal to help you select the finest books available. Additionally, our programs offer opportunities for publishers, authors and illustrators to receive recognition for providing excellence in literature.


In the village of Zandair lived a colony of animals which had prospered for many years.   But then one year no rain fell from the sky, the lake dried up, and the animals became weak from thirst and hunger.  The village chief gathered all the animals together to see what might be done to save them all.  None of the animals had any advice to offer their chief save one lowly turtle named Timba.  Timba humbly recalled a story from many years ago when her ancestors faced a similar plight. The other animals scoffed at Timba’s suggestion, but with no other ideas the chief determined they should give Timba’s idea a try. 


Animal Village is a lovely tale with an enduring message of strength in humility and the power of persistence.  Beautifully penned and illustrated by Nelda LaTeef, the pages of this book come to life as children are inspired by this time-honored folk tale.  Recommended for home and school libraries, Animal Village has earned the Literary Classics Seal of Approval.

LITERARY CLASSICS Book Awards & Reviews International Book Awards • Top Honors Youth Book Awards • Seal of Approval   




Official review of Animal Village

Post by MsH2k , November 19, 2021


Animal Village is a children's book written and illustrated by Nelda LaTeef. The author notes that the artwork “is done in acrylic, Indian ink and collage on art board.” I do not know what that means from a technical perspective, but from an observer’s standpoint, that phrase translates into gorgeous, bold, richly colorful scenes that transported me to the heart of West Africa, where the story unfolds.


When I received this book, I did not open it right away. I let it rest on top of my bookcase and admired the cover every time I passed by. Sensing the illustrations would be worth savoring, I did not want to rush into the story.


Chief Zamboha, the lion king, was helpless in the face of a drought that was ravaging the land of the Zarma. When he called a meeting of all the animals in the village to ask for ideas, the tortoise Timba was the only one who offered a suggestion. Her wisdom came from the “old stories” passed down from the elders, describing a solution that worked long ago. Will her solution work? Will the other animals trust advice from so long ago?


The author bookends the tale with information that enhances the story. At the beginning, interesting facts about the Sahara and Africa overall are listed beside a map of Africa with the countries in brilliant colors. After the story, the author shares she was inspired to write this book when she heard a narrative told by a griot, those in a village who are entrusted to pass down the “old stories.” The challenge presented in this book is also quite relevant to the sub-Saharan region, as drought is an ongoing issue in the area.


In the adventure, there are examples of setting aside one’s pride for the sake of others. There are also scenes highlighting the need for unity to survive. I admired Chief Zamboha. He was wise enough to ask for help when he could not come up with a solution to the drought. He knew the animals in his village well—both their strengths and weaknesses. And he knew when to lead and when to follow.


There was absolutely nothing I disliked about this read. I was motivated to learn more about Africa, and I was in awe of the quality of the illustrations. I felt totally immersed in the story.


It is my pleasure to rate Animal Village 4 out of 4 stars. It is an exceptionally well-edited and well-illustrated 28-page experience. The font is easy to read and does not distract from the full-page artwork. This book is recommended for ages 4 to 8, but readers would benefit from having an adult guide discussion around the educational elements surrounding the tale.




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   “In her book, Animal Village, such mighty lessons Nelda LaTeef teaches the young and those of us who are not so young. Listen to the ‘old stories’ passed down from ‘the ancestors;’ it is always better to pull together rather than stand against each other; keep at a task until it is done; and everything is possible, by and by.”


—Johnnetta Betsch Cole,

Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art


   "Animal Village is an inspiring story that teaches us perseverance and the value of working together. What is true in the animal village equally holds for our global village."


—Benita Ferrero-Waldner,

European Commissioner for Trade and European Neighborhood Policy,

United Nations Chief of Protocol, and Foreign Minister of Austria



Creative Illustration Technique, Valuable Cultural Insights, Great Story


Animal Village will inspire young children with its message of determination and individual initiative in the face of social pressure, but it's the illustrations that will draw kids in and enchant them—along with the adult readers with whom they share. The author/illustrator's unusual collage/multimedia technique incorporates wonderful colors and patterns, making this book appear strikingly like no other. The cultural insights from the story and the author's afterword provide additional value. A fine choice for a thoughtful or artistic child.


—Editor, Bob Holtzman





Author Brings African Wisdom to The Reader


Animal Village, written and illustrated by Nelda LaTeef, is a most beautiful and delightful book. Written for children it is also completely engaging for adults because in telling the folktale the author brings African wisdom to the reader along with her amazing illustrations which capture the colors, shadows and space of Africa. Nelda LaTeef acts like an African griot, or story teller, in using her illustrations to capture the feeling, the temperature and the openness of Africa, as she passes along the story of another griot from a Zarma village in West Africa to audiences around the world. My grandchildren and their friends in London loved searching for the different animals and hearing about their cooperation in solving the problem of not having enough water. The story makes what children often hear in the news about climate change causing water shortages more real. I have purchased several copies to give away because every child I read the story to wants to hear it again and again. It is a wonderful new classic.


—Elbrun Kimmelman, NYC


Beating Climate Change

Is it possible that a wise tortoise in Niger knows the secret to beating climate change? The answer can be found in Animal Village, an award-winning book by noted children’s book author/illustrator Nelda LaTeef.

—Nancy Croft Baker, INMED Communications Director

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