Aardema, V. (1995). How the Ostrich Got Its Long Neck. New York: Scholastic Inc.
A folktale from the Akamba in Kenya, Aardema retells the story of (as you may guess from the title) how the ostrich got it's long neck. The original short-necked ostrich has trouble getting his food and water. Life may be difficult, but the ostrich manages (while creating some funny images in the illustrations and minds of young readers). One morning while the ostrich goes down to the the river for a drink, he encounters a crying crocodile who has a terrible toothache after many other animals have fled to avoid the pained beastie.
The story incorporates a lot of fun sounds and is asking to be read aloud to students.
I have to admit, personally, the illustrations didn't do much for me. Sometimes it was hard to figure out exactly what was going on in some of the pictures (too many markered black lines).
Activities to Do with This Book:
Using folktales such as this one can help introduce young and middle grade students to other cultures. Since this story involves an ostrich, it can be an especially good beginning place, since ostriches are such unusual and interesting animals that capture children's imaginations.
Students could pick up the typical language of the folktale and write their own animal tales in response, perhaps featuring their pets or favorite animal specie.
This version of the folktale could also be used to show the ecosystem and how the various animals and plants are all interconnected.
In terms of larger themes, a teacher could draw out ideas of being helpful and trustworthy.
"Long long ago, when the earth was set down and the sky was lifted up, the ostrich had a short neck."
"Crocodile swam on, her tears dripping into the water with tiny splashes, tih tih tih."
"Farther on, it happened that the short-necked ostrich was drinking by the edge of the river.
Crocodile called, "Hiye, Ostrich, will you take a look at my teeth? I have a terrible toothache. And I'm sure you could pull out the bad tooth with your strong beak."
"The ground seemed much farther away--but he could reach it easily.
And the berries high on a nearby bush were right within his reach."