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Deidre's Book Reviews

SHAKA: King of the Zulus
True Believer
The Tale of Despereaux
The Giver
The First Part Last
A Single Shard
How Angel Peterson Got His Name
SHAKA: King of the Zulus
The Gold Cadillac
Freedman's Voice that Challenged A Nation
Messages in the Mailbox
Seymour's Stars
Author Study: Joyce Carol Thomas
My Favorite Joyce Carol Thomas Books
Suggested Response Activity
Review of Thomas's Hush Songs
Review of Thomas's Gingerbread Days
Ride a Purple Pelican
My Momma Likes to Say
My Man Blue
Beast Feast
The Stinky Cheese Man
Once Upon A Time
My Friend Rabbit
Caring for Your Pets
Two Bad Ants

Stanley, Diane and Peter Vennema. 1988. SHAKA: KING OF THE

               ZULUS. New York: Morrow Publishing Company.

                ISBN: 0-688-07342-5.




Shaka: King of the Zulus is a biography of the powerful nineteenth-century Zulu chief, Shaka.  The book describes how Shaka was born in 1787 and grew up without his natural father.  He and his mother were banished from their original land and forced to settle elsewhere.  Eventually, Shaka trained himself to be a warrior and became the leader of the Zulu tribe. 



 This book is categorized as historical fiction, written in a story-like format.  By introducing the history of the African tribe leader in a story, the authors attract young readers to learn about historical figures. 




The harsh spirit of the time, during the 1800’s is depicted throughout the book.  The authors even write, “Shaka lived in a different age, when nations all over the world went to war to build great empires, believing it was honorable.” Including these type of sentences, gives the reader more insight on how we should perceive such information that we read, allowing us to differentiate between what is and what is not accepted in our society and culture. 



 This adds understanding to the reading – explaining why Shaka’s attitude and life revolved around fighting and killing.  Not only does this explain Shaka but it also reveals the history of the African culture. 



The writing style of the authors, gives more details of Shaka – rather than dwelling on the historical aspects of why the tribes resorted to fighting and how tribes were formed.  The book includes a pronunciation guide in the beginning of the story. 




The guide helps to add definition to the story that follows.  Readers, especially young readers, may be intimidated or intrigued when reading new words that they are unfamiliar with.  It allows the reader to flip back and forth, getting familiar with the African terms and names – which lead to a better understanding of the story.



Each page of text is accompanied by a colorful illustration.  The pictures work to help tell the story of Shaka’s life.  They show emotions through the facial expressions and add meaning to the characters.  A good example is the illustration of Zulu holding his mother as she is dying.  You can see the pain and emotional distress on the faces of the tribesmen and Zulu himself. 




The illustrations connect the reader to the story and allow the reader to fully comprehend the feelings of Zulu and why he reacted the way he did after his mother died.  The clothes, weapons, animals, and living huts are easily defined through the illustrations. 




Although the book has much to teach about Shaka’s life and the history of African tribes and culture, there are important lessons taught as well.  Stanley’s book could be used in the classroom or at home, to discuss the importance of family values, determination, self-esteem, grieving over a death of a loved one, honoring and respecting our neighbors, and many more. 



Each page could be a stopping point, when reading aloud, to discuss the historical and life lessons found throughout the book, Shaka: King of the Zulus.

Last updated: March 24, 2005