The Africa Classroom Package:
Reading Fun

Read the animal story poems (with Swahili titles) below, then refer to Lessons and Activities for related activities.

Story Poems by Paul Hurteau

Note, these poems and 18 others can be found in the online adventure Safari!


In an old story
The Creator felt sorry
For he made all the beasts without horns and coats
The zebras looked like donkeys
The gorillas looked like monkeys
And the Thompson's gazelles looked like goats

He said, "Oh, what a wonder
What a thundering blunder
I just knew that I left something out
If I don't change the features
Of these resembling creatures
When I try to distinguish I'll always have doubt"

So back to the drawing board
To retap his thinking gourd
The Big Guy went with a hammer and thread
Horns and sweaters
Of ivory and leather
He crafted till well past the hour for bed

The next morning at dawn
He bid the animals come
To a cave where he displayed all the styles brand new
The animals rushed
And some of them pushed
For such a sale only comes when the moon turns blue

The Creator said with pride
Take two horns and a hide
Whichever ones you think will fit you best
So the animals lunged
And the greedy ones plunged
And came out with a tie and a vest

But unfortunately for me
Since quite poorly I see
I grabbed uneven horns and a suit three sizes too large
I'll admit I was sad
But made the best of what I had
And put the horns on my nose should I ever need to charge

And those horns still haunt me
For the poachers now want me
And they kill me if they can get past the ranger
So I'm on the brink
Of becoming extinct
And because I never wore glasses I'm now considered endangered


Though I do have olive locks guarding my head
Like my eyes, my backside's a bright shiny red
My snout's fairly bald yet my cheeks have thick hair
So it may seem a paradox that my bottom is bare!

But there's a tale in traditional African lore
That explains why my bottom's so red and so sore
I once partook in a bitter territorial fight
With a formidable zebra who lacking stripes was all white

I tripped up the stallion, in a bush-flare he fell
The flames licked his hide as he released a fierce yell
Of course he emerged with his telltale motif
Stomping in anger and snarling in grief
So mad and so vicious, he kicked me high in the air
The crash landing so frictious that it scraped off my hair.


Two time-tested African tales do tell
How I got a few qualities for which I'm known so well
These stories have been around for hundreds of years
They speak of my claws, my speed and my tears

The first tells of a race between a topi and me
None other than God was the referee
Lacking in traction I went to a canine
Borrowed his claws which fit just fine
But back then I was also wanting in speed
And the much quicker antelope took a comfortable lead
But then out of the blue a tragic accident took place
The topi tripped on a rock, was knocked out of the race
His leg was broken I could see as I neared
"Keep going, you'll win," the crowd taunted and jeered
But my heart went out to the lame sassaby
I stopped and helped him; in a word, I was friendly
The Creator was pleased with my kindness and grace
For aiding my opponent when I could have won the race
Great speed he made a gift only mine
And allowed me to keep the claws of the canine
So now I'm capable of lightning fast raids
And I'm the only feline with unretractable blades.

Just as gladly the second story ends
But I tell of it sadly, for my heart it rends
My cubs I left hiding in the bush one day
As I went out on the plain to stalk my prey
And though I've great speed and can hunt in a hurry
Something horrible happened, my very worst worry
For an unkind man was also hunting that day
He snatched my three babes from the grass where they lay
I thought for sure I would never see them again
So I cried night and day, tears without end
But a kind old man heard me cry
And came to my home to find out why
When he learned of the crime committed by his kin
He returned to the people to report the sin
The hunter was banished from the village fold
For hunting unfairly and for being so bold
My cubs were returned to my tender care
But the tears left a mark on my face that's still there.

So I've told you two tales and one tail I've got
But I need still another to explain my spots
So with your imagination I leave it to you
If you can invent such a tale, then I'll have two, too.


In Africa they say that long ago I proposed marriage to a human one day
She laughed at me, said I was frail and weak, and told me to buzz away
Humiliated I did as she bid, but the anger has grown with the years
Sweet revenge I vowed I'd forever get by buzzing in her children's ears
I do this to remind you human folk that though I seem insignificant to you
I too persist to live on this earth and even the small should be given their due

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