Tololwa M. Mollel describes on his website the first time he had a new book to call his own. He stared at it. He smelled the pages. He cherished the words that transported him into different lives and worlds.”When I finally began school and to enjoy access to books, like a parched throat thirsts for water, I couldn’t get enough,” he wrote.
Reading and two special mentors – his paternal grandfather and uncle – put him on the path to writing and storytelling. Today, he’s an award-winning author of more than 16 children’s books including Coretta Scott King Honor book My Rows and Piles of Coins, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, and Parents’ Choice honoree The Orphan Boy, illustrated by Paul Morin. Mollel’s stories have won praise for drawing on his African heritage, exploring family and folklore and focusing on universal themes.
Along with being an author, Mollel is a dramatist and performer. His stories beg to be read aloud. Some even have songs. Mollel, who lives in Canada, enjoys sharing his work at schools and libraries: “I aim to provide a feast of words –written and spoken – for the eye, the ear and the mind; as well as for the creative imagination, and for performance.”
The idea of “feasting” on words came from the culture of his Massai-speaking grandfather who filled Tanzania-born Mollel with appreciation for the spoken word. He celebrates that spirit everywhere he goes. His books and performances captivate young readers and take them to magical places. He hopes through his work to share “the gift of story” that was given to him.
My Rows and Piles of Coins
“A warm family story set in Tanzania in the 1960s . . . The
first-person story contains several universal childhood experiences: the pride
in persevering and gaining a new skill and in making an unselfish contribution
to the family. Since the narrative focus is on the boy’s own goals, the story is
natural and never excessively moralistic. The fluid, light-splashed watercolor
illustrations lend a sense of place and authenticity. Watching Saruni’s savings
mount visually is a nice touch. A short glossary gives the meaning and
pronunciation of frequently used words. Deft and effective.”
– School Library Journal
“Buoyed by exceptional illustrations, Mollel (The Flying Tortoise) spins a tale of universal appeal from a scrap of Tanzanian folklore . . . Mollel’s story is an engaging fantasy for little ones with big aspirations, but it is Lewis’s (Fire on the Mountain) crisp, understated watercolors that steal the show. His pleasing compositions, with their surprising perspectives, incorporate details particular to the Tanzanian setting even as they evoke a sense of boundless space.”
– Publishers Weekly
Rhinos for Lunch and Elephants for Supper!
” . . . Mollel, whose retelling of another story from his Maasai heritage, The Orphan Boy, is a Notable Children’s Book for 1992, tells this amusing cumulative tale with a verve that especially recommends it for oral sharing; Spurll sets her wonderfully expressive animal characters in a carefully composed jungle attractively bordered with a lively geometric design, adding such delightful touches as a bespectacled leopard reading to her wide-eyed cubs. Delightful.”
Find out more about Tololwa M. Mollel here.