The Perfect Orange



A Tale from Ethiopia
by Frank P. Araujo, PhD
illustrated by Xiao Jun Li
ISBN 978-1-877810-94-7
Hardcover, 32 pages, 10½ x 9
Ages 4 – 13

• PBS(TV) Storytime Selection (episode #305)
• Time Magazine’s adaptation for TIME FOR KIDS MAGAZINE grades 3-4 and grades 5-6 issues
• Smithsonian Institute selection for Let’s Read program

In this inspiring and gentle folktale set in ancient Ethiopia, a generous young girl, Tshai (tsuh-HIGH), travels far from her village to take an extraordinary gift to Ethiopia’s ruler, the great Nigus (NI-goose). On the way, Tshai meets a greedy villain, Ato Jib, who selfishly plots to increase his riches. However, the great Nigus is wise: Ato Jib is foiled; and Tshai is rewarded liberally. Tshai returns to her village and true to her nature, joyously shares her unexpected fortune with her neighbors.

The story is enhanced by a sprinkling of Ethiopian terms, which are defined in a glossary.

From the simplicity of Tshai’s village to the splendor of the great Nigus’ court, internationally acclaimed artist Xiao Jun Li masterfully captures both the pastoral charm and the majesty of ancient Ethiopia in his breathtaking watercolor paintings. Illustrations are rich with Ethiopian details, and the artistic rendering of characters accurately reflects their personality traits.

The visual side of The Perfect Orange. Here is an analysis by Wilson Library Bulletin of the exceptional watercolor paintings of Xiao Jun Li in creating the illustrations in The Perfect Orange:
“Li breaks images into rhythmic shapes that are almost cubist in mode, and he organizes them in clusters of overlapping designs. The beautiful distinctness of the protagonist remains intact, while the villainess hyena is swathed in the same graceful garments but lacks the woman’s magical aura. The brilliance of this work lies in the way one can sense an interior kind of structure — a modeling and forming technique that relies upon an inner solidity, rather than a contour. Subtle shades of color build the figures and suggest either anatomical form or graceful folds of cloth. Li produces a particularly striking page when he encircles the hyena, Ato Jib, with menacing cattle or makes luminous, abstract backgrounds with merging colors. Throughout all this richness, great care is taken in articulating the essence of the story.”

“With wit and wisdom, author Frank P. Araujo weaves a wonderful tale … Acclaimed artist Xiao Jun Li brings the tale to life with vibrant watercolor illustrations. This story is sure to be included among the favorite books of many young readers.” — Small Press Magazine

“Araujo’s straight forward style is well suited to the simplicity of the story. Li’s delicate watercolors mesh well with the text . . . illustrations sweep across the pages. The hyena … sparkles with mischief.” — School Library Journal

“This ancient Ethiopian folktale reinforces the values of generosity and selflessness over greed and self-centeredness … dramatic … appealing book that gives young readers a window both on the Ethiopian culture and on the universality of the values expressed in the tale.” — The Five Owls

Toucan Tales Series
In Rayve Productions’ Toucan Tales series, each featured culture is extensively researched by author, artist and publisher prior to the creation of text and art. In addition, manuscript and art are reviewed for accuracy and authenticity by authoritative individuals of the featured culture.

Frank Araujo, Author
Frank Araujo holds degrees in linguistics and anthropology from the University of California and has more than 20 years experience and active field work as a cultural anthropologist in Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America and the Middle East. His interest in folklore and children’s literature stems from his love of storytelling, and he is committed to creating stories that are fun to read and that accurately portray cultural diversity.

Xiao Jun Li, Illustrator
Internationally acclaimed children’s illustrator Xiao Jun Li was educated at the College of Fine Arts at Tiajin. His awards include those from the Asian Cultural Center of the United Nations in Tokyo, and the Sixth National Exhibition of Fine Arts in Beijing.

Do you have a question or comment for the illustrator? Contact Xiao Jun Li at

Additional information

Weight1 lbs
Dimensions9 x 10.5 x .5 in


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