Mama Elizabeti

by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

Illustrated by Christy Hale

  • publisher and date: Lee & Low Books, 2000
  • genre: realistic fiction
  • age/grade:grades preschool-grade 2

Synopsis (from
Elizabeti has a new baby sister. With her mother busy with the baby, Elizabeti now has to help take care of her younger brother, Obedi. She thinks she knows what to do, after tending to her own “baby,” a rock doll named Eva. But in this tender sequel to Elizabeti’s Doll, she finds that looking after a real child isn’t so easy.

Author’s Perspective: ( Stuve-Bodeen went to Tanzania as a Peace Corps volunteer after graduating from the University of Wisconsin–River Falls. Her experiences in Africa inspired the setting and characters for her first picture book, Elizabeti’s Doll, as well as a series of other books that follow Stuve-Bodeen’s likeable young protagonist: Mama Elizabeti and Elizabeti’s School.

Literary Elements:

Character – Elizabeti is a young girl who wants to be like her mom. She is surprised when caring for her real baby brother is so much more difficult than caring for her baby rock!

Theme – Siblings, family traditions, responsibility

Illustrations – From Children’s Literature review – Christy Hale’s illustrations, full of expressive faces, perfectly convey the spirit of Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen’s gently humorous text.

Curriculum Connections:

Web Resources:


Children’s Literature (from

In Mama Elizabeti, a young girl takes care of her toddler brother when her mother has a new baby. But squirming, hair-pulling Obedi constantly interrupts the chores older sister Elizabeti is trying to do in their African village. Frustrated, she leaves Obedi alone, just for a moment—and he disappears. The story of what Elizabeti finally gets from, as well as gives to, her little brother will speak to older siblings everywhere. Christy Hale’s illustrations, full of expressive faces, perfectly convey the spirit of Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen’s gently humorous text. 2000, Lee and Low, $15.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum

School Library Journal (from

PreS-Gr 2-Stuve-Bodeen builds on the poignant themes of Elizabeti’s Doll (Lee & Low, 1998), while giving readers an expanded view of life in this African village. The child’s day is filled with sweeping, washing, and picking rocks from the rice. She must also look after her young brother, as Mama has a new baby who needs care. Securing Obedi to her back with a kanga, Elizabeti confidently starts out on her way to the village well. However, Obedi is a squirmer, he’s mischievous, plus he’s heavy. Finally, Elizabeti drops her water jug and slumps in despair. She sets the boy down and quickly fetches the water. When she returns, he’s gone, but her fears turn to joy as he takes his first toddling steps back to her and gives her a loud, wet kiss. Getting home is no longer a problem; Elizabeti simply ties the kanga from her waist to his and lets him walk. While the child’s challenges as a caregiver are specific to her environment, the frustrations she feels are universal. Readers might see her life as a hardship, but no such emotion is expressed. The illustrations bring this world alive. Hale perfectly captures the spontaneity and totality of a toddler’s love, and the intimacy among family members is heartwarming and palpable. This is a loving, sensitive book to be shared and cherished.-Martha Topol, Traverse Area District Library, Traverse City, MI Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.


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