Kondi is determined to make a galimoto — a toy vehicle made of wires. His brother laughs at the idea, but all day Kondi goes about gathering up the wire he needs. By nightfall, his wonderful galimoto is ready for the village children to play with in the light of the moon.

One thought on “Galimoto

  1. Ann Parker & Celeste Trimble says:

    I was watching Sesame Street with my toddler the other day when a segment came on about South African wire cars. It was lively and fascinating and it made me want to investigate these cars more. When I began reading Galimoto, I did not know what the word Galimoto meant, not having noticed the definition on the copyright page. So, I was delighted when I got to the end of the book and learned that a Galimoto is a wire car. However, I know my reading of the book was enriched by having just seen these cars in action.
    I was lucky enough to hear Karen Lynn Williams speak at the 2012 Tucson Festival of Books on a panel entitled “Picture Books as Global Passports.” She spent time in Africa in the Peace Corp and was fascinated by the toys (called galimotos, the word for cars) that children made out of found pieces, such as wire or bits of scrap. She originally wrote an article about these toys, but when she couldn’t get it published she turned it into a children’s book that was accepted for publication by HarperCollins. That was her first published book.
    During that presentation, Karen addressed the issue that has been debated in the field of children’s literature about whether authors from outside a culture can write authentically about that culture. To me, though, Galimoto is not so much about an African child as it is about the universal themes of the determination and creativity of children. And who doesn’t love a book about toys?
    I read this book to a class of college students last week and asked them to identify the culture represented in the book. I did not read to them the mention at the very beginning of the book that the possible linguistic origin of the word galimoto is from Malawi. Most of the students recognized the setting of the story being in Africa. However, not all the students recognized that. The ones that did noted the clothing and the ways of carrying children were the factors that clued them into an African setting. One student said she knew it took place in Africa because the people looked poor!
    I have encountered many children who believe that Africa is but one country, not a continent filled with numerous cultures, languages, and traditions. Galimoto, unfortunately, encourages this incorrect thought by lacking any kind of cultural specificity. If college students’ thinking about Africa is muddy, elementary students thinking is pure clay. While I agree that the book is not directly about Africa, or an African child, but play and ingenuity as you mentioned, I believe the author and illustrator have a responsibility to tear down, rather than add to or remain neutral to cultural ignorance when a book is obviously directed at people outside the culture about which the book is written.
    I like to think that children’s literature allows for some nuance. I don’t think that every book set in a culture that may be unfamiliar to US kids needs to teach children explicitly about that culture. To ensure children don’t take away stereotypes, teachers could utilize text sets to encourage broad cultural reading. I also think Galimoto could be a good book to use in a class with refugee children who might recognize their culture and country, and who are very familiar with the idea of creating playthings from found materials.
    I agree that using this book within a broader cultural context such as a text set would diminish my criticism about the lack of cultural specificity. Children are not always so lucky, however, to have a teacher sensitive to such issues. In 1991, Reading Rainbow did a segment featuring Galimoto. The initial context for the book was the idea that many things we use are made out of wire. There was a segment about a tram and one about high wire performers. The end of the segment featured other children’s books about things kids can make with their hands.
    While this was a fun and educational context to present Galimoto, the problem of a lack of cultural specificity remains. I truly enjoyed the book, however. A simple solution to this problem would be to place the informative paragraph that is on the copyright page in a more prominent location before or after the text, specifying the origin and setting of the story.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *