My thanks to Booktasters and author Stephen Tako for a review copy of this book.

Junga the Dancing Yeti is a delightful and sweet picture book which both gives readers an enjoyable story and conveys an important message about difference and understanding—one relevant not only for its intended readers but adults as well.

In Junga the Dancing Yeti, which appears to be the first of a series (there is a second book listed on Goodreads), we meet Junga, a little yeti, who lives with his parents, older brother, sissy and grandma in the frozen mountains. The snow protects the family from danger, but unlike the rest of his family, Junga feels cold when the weather is extreme, and begins to jump about—dance—to keep warm! His brother and sissy find this strange but his mother likes his unique dance! Since he finds the weather hard to adjust to, Grandma decides to take him to warmer climes for the winter. So, Junga and Grandma begin their journey, traveling by ship till they reach an open mountain space which seems perfect. Junga is excited at the prospect of a new home and new friends (who Grandma tells him will be different from themselves). But just as Grandma and he begin to look for a cave to live in, they are captured by the condors, who see poor Junga and Grandma as ‘beasts’ only there to spoil the condor festival! Do Junga and Grandma get out? How?

This was as I said a sweet little story, which through Junga and Grandma’s little adventure, gives out an important message about the need to understand those different from ourselves. At a basic level, we have Junga’s dancing to warm himself up when he can’t bear the cold weather—this is different from usual behaviour and so immediately seen as strange and undesirable by his siblings. His mother however sees it for what it is—just a cute little dance.

Then again, the condors, basing their decision on how they perceive and what they have heard of yetis (stereotypes) are quick to dub them ‘beasts’ and condemn them without even a chance to explain. Not only that, Grandma is taken to a separate place while little Junga—cold and alone—is locked up in a cage, no heed paid to the fact that he is only a child. Not only that, the guards jeer and poke fun at him, causing him even more misery. Here it is Junga’s dancing that comes to his rescue and causes his captors to begin to question their decision, and actually get to know Junga and Grandma for who they are.

I think the author did a great job of getting through his message of needing to talk to, get to know, and understand those different from us rather than simply dubbing them as strange or a threat and acting accordingly. This is done effectively and I think clearly enough to get across to the intended reader. There is also a small box of helpful tips at the end which sets out this same message more directly, along with others such as on bullying (which we also see in the story). The one on ‘safety in numbers’ didn’t seem to fit with the others though (perhaps it would work in a different context).

I also liked the artwork very much; Junga and his family take on the colour of the cold climes they come from in shades of blue, while the warmer climes and its inhabitants are depicted as we know them. I loved the band at the condor festival, and the bears in their tutus and ballet shoes. The one thing I might have liked different are the background colours on the pages—although there are different colours on different pages which seem to represent the different places they are in (greens and blues in the frozen mountain, grey in the cave, and warmer colours in the condors’ mountain), may be I’d have liked it better on a white background or with lighter colours, but that’s just a small thing.

For the rest, I liked this book very much and think it will do its job of both entertaining its readers and conveying its message.

4.5 stars  

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Junga the Dancing Yeti by Stephen Tako (author) and Peter Gullerud (illustrator)

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