Coretta Scott King Award Books: Using Great Literature with Children and Young Adults

By Claire Gatrell Stephens | Go to book overview

Chapter 11
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale

John Steptoe

Illustrated by John Steptoe

1988 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award


About the Story

John Steptoe's story is based on a 1895 folktale by G. M. Theal in the book Kaffir Folktales. This modern version focuses on two beautiful sisters. One is vain and mean-spirited, the other kind and gentle.

As in many folktales of this sort, the mean sister, Manyara, is jealous of the kind sister. The sweet-tempered Nyasha puts up with her sister's ways without complaining. The plot begins with the announcement that the king is looking for a wife. Manyara, in an effort to be presented first to the king, leaves home at night and travels alone to the king's great city. On her journey, she encounters a small boy and an old woman. She shows her true personality and is unkind to both, as well as to others she meets along the way. Following behind her with their father, Nyasha has the same encounters, but she responds by treating each person kindly.

Upon their arrival in the great city, Nyasha and her father are greeted by Manyara, whose visit with the king has not gone well. Nyasha, entering the king's chamber, discovers that she has encountered the king before in the shape of a small snake in her garden, as well as the boy and old women she met on her journey. These disguises have allowed the king to know the true nature of the two girls, and he asks Nyasha to be his bride.

The illustrations in this award-winning book are inspired by regions in Zimbabwe and ruins of an ancient city found there.

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