Julie Stiegemeyer, Children’s Author


From Publisher’s Weekly (starred review):

From the opening full-bleed, full-spread watercolor illustration of a young boy greeting the dawn in front of his grass-roofed hut with arms stretched wide toward heaven, to the final spread of a community gathered to praise God under a baobab tree’s encompassing branches, a spirit of quiet joy and wonder reverberates through this tale. As brother and sister Moyo and Japera walk dusty roads to the next village, they pass through their diverse community: weaverbirds in acacia trees, gazelle at a watering hole, a termite mound “rising from the tall grass like a finger pointing to heaven,” rendered by Lewis (Bat Boy and His Violin) as a vivid red natural sculpture decorating a brown, arid plain. Amid the children’s observations and musings, Stiegemeyer (Seven Little Bunnies) interweaves the refrain “But who will gather today under the baobab tree?” A preface page introduces the baobab tree, describing its practical and spiritual value to the African savanna’s human and animal communities. Understated lyricism combines with uncluttered, foreground-focused depictions of creation in this prose hymn of thanksgiving, prayer, and praise. Ages 4–7. (May)

A brother and sister travel to a special gathering under a gigantic baobab tree in this quiet, beautifully illustrated story set in a rural area of an unnamed African country.

The siblings walk together down a dusty road on their way to a nearby village, where the large baobab tree is located. The story relates different events that happen under the tree: a visit from the market wagon, elders meeting to discuss village business, a storyteller recounting tales of heroes. A repeated refrain builds anticipation: “But who will gather today under the baobab tree?” During their journey, the children spot some intriguing sights such as gazelle around a watering hole and a termite mound. When they reach the baobab tree at last, they join other people waiting under the tree, and it gradually becomes apparent that this is an outdoor church service with just the basic elements: “a cross and a Bible, a pastor and songs, voices and prayers.” Evocative watercolor illustrations make effective use of sunlight and shadows to create a warm, realistic world that shimmers in the African heat.  

A subtle, captivating glimpse of another way of life, with a regrettably generalized author’s note about the significance of the baobab tree in African culture. (Picture book/religion. 4-8)

  1. -Kirkus, March 2012

Information about Baobab Trees:

The baobab tree grows in the African savannah. Its trunk is enormous--so big, in fact, that it has been a place where people can bury their dead. Animals live within it as well. Its fruit, known as monkey bread, feeds a variety of birds species. A photo of its large seed pod is below. More information on the baobab can be found below.

This website tells about the baobab trees, their fruit, flowers, and where they grow.


Other resources:

Coates Palgrave, K.; P. & M. 1985. Everyone's guide to trees of South Africa. Struik, Cape Town.

Esterhuyse, N., Von Breitenbach, J. & Söhnge, H. 2001. Remarkable trees of South Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.

Germishuizen,G. & Meyer, N.L. (eds). 2003. Plants of southern Africa: an annotated checklist. Strelitzia 14. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

Kubitzki, K & Bayer, C. 2003. The families and genera of vascular plants, vol. 5. Springer, Heidelberg.

Palmer, E. & Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa, vol. 2. Balkema, Cape Town.

Venter, F. & Venter, J. 1985. Making the most of indigenous trees. Briza Publications, Pretoria.


Under the Baobab Tree

Illustrated by E. B. Lewis

Zonderkidz, 2012

ISBN 978-0-310-72561-9

Moyo and Japera, a brother and sister, travel on the dusty roads in Africa. They are headed to the baobab tree--the tree of life. Under the tree’s gnarled branches, villagers gather. But who will they meet today under the baobab tree?