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Ride a Pale Horse
Helen MacInnes
The Samurai's Wife
Laura Joh Rowland

How the Leopard Got His Claws / by Chinua Achebe ; illustrated by Mary GrandPré

How the Leopard Got His Claws - Chinua Achebe

I sort of have mixed feelings about this one.  On one hand, the story has some meat to it.  The personalities of the characters were well developed.  The story took its time and set itself up to make the climax impactful.  King Leopard sort of had a Shakespearean transformation from being a wise and benevolent king, to getting really pissed off and losing his higher self and his kingdom to anger and revenge.  There are some intense passages in this story, and I really think those passages took the kids aback a bit.  


But, boy, while the story was intense (which made it interesting), I was kind of uncomfortable with the message that was coming across.  That message was if someone hurts you, or sells you out, you A) treat them with with contempt, and then B) choke on your hurt and anger until you can't stand it any longer.  Then you take your anger and some weapons to the object of your hate and cut loose.  Hm.


Because I wasn't down with this message, I asked the kids what they thought of the way King Leopard dealt with the problem before him.  I was relieved that they didn't think his reaction was the appropriate way to go.  Initially the kids were advocating for King Leopard, but when he went off the rails they lost some respect for him.  Although they did kind of embrace "you reap what you sow,"   I was pleased to hear that their ideas of what good leadership is did not include rage, weaponry, and ruthlessness.   I also specifically chose to read this book to the kids just so we could have this discussion.