The Fortune-Tellers

ISBN: 0613036018
ISBN 13: 9780613036016
By: Lloyd Alexander Trina Schart Hyman

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311 Children Children's Books Childrens Fiction Kids Multicultural Picture Book Picture Books To Read

About this book

This original folktale set in Cameroon is full of adventure and sly humor. Lloyd Alexander's story of a young man visiting -- and then becoming -- the village fortune-teller is brought to vibrant life with some of Caldecott Medalist Trina Schart Hyman's most memorable artwork. Both children and adults will relish The Fortune-tellers. "A funny, playful story that evokes the irony of the human condition." -- dren, most of which she also illustrated. She lives in Westchester County, New York. Susan Jeffers's award-winning work includes Brother Eagle, Sister Sky, The Midnight Farm, and Hiawatha (all Dial).

Reader's Thoughts


"The Fortune-Tellers" is an African story about a man who visits a fortune-teller, who tells him he will be successful and wealthy, with generic statements like "You will be very wealthy, once you have earned a lot of money." It is comical and fun. The book could be used in a classroom to talk about irony or inference or something like that. It would be fun to look at the fortune-teller's ambiguous fortune giving and figure out what he's really saying, and maybe have kids try to come up with their own fortune-telling phrases. It's a fun exploration of the meaning of language, and how a lot of words can be used to say very little.Trina Schart Hyman is an incredible illustrator; she is definitely one of my favorites. She has an excellent understanding of the human figure, the human face, human emotion. She shows all of it so well! I cannot get enough of her faces! The illustrations contribute as much to the story as the text does. The crowds of people are full of life and personality. I would not have cared for the fortune-tellers if not for the way they were depicted. She is also great as showing relationship, like that between the fortune-teller and the merchant's daughter. The words did nothing to make me care about them; the magic was all in the pictures!


** spoiler alert ** Okay, where do I begin? My son picked this out from his school library. I had no idea what to expect. But I love that my son comes home with the coolest, most unexpected books ever! And let me just say that if I were rating this on illustrations alone, I would give it 4 stars. So, my apologies to the illustrator Trina Scharf Hyman. The premise of this book is that a young, seemingly impoverished labor-working man covets wealth, an easier job, and a wife. Simple things that we all hope for. He goes and sees a Fortune-Teller who, of course, is a hustler. So when he asks if he will live a long life, the FT says {paraphrased}, "Yes! You will live a long life. As long as you stay healthy and keep breathing." I know what the author was going for. And it did have us all laughing at the silliness of the FT's reading. It's become a new favorite to make comments like this in the car now as a result. "Um, mom, will I live a long time?" "Yes, honey. If you keep breathing!" =)Okay, so, let me just say that a 2-star review is not BAD. The rating means - "it was ok." And it was. I'm not sure I would say I *liked* it or would read it to my daughter when she is older. It won't becomea classic in our picture book library. But it was OK. Where the story went off track for me a little was not when the old FT disappears and the young man takes over his job (thus getting a better job, lots of wealth and a bride), but the fact that it then shows the old FT very quickly getting his comeuppance and never being heard from again. Yet, nothing happens to the new, young FT. Except that he is grateful for his benefactor whom he thinks of from time to time. Huh? I guess some stories resonate with you a little more, and this one fell flat for me. I wanted to see a different ending, that I just didn't get the "pay off" on. Even my six-year old son was like, "Hmmmm. That's weird." So, like I said, wonderful illustrations - very colorful and detailed and fun. But the story for me turned out to be just all-right.


A carpenter goes to a fortune teller and finds the predictions about his future come true in an unusual way. Delightful story with illustrations rich in detail of Cameroonian life. The illustrator's son married a Cameroonian girl. She and a grand baby appear with the basket seller. Both the author and the illustrator are seated in the cafe in the same illustration.

Elizabeth Schrank

This book has amazing illustrations. They are very detailed and intricate. I think that this is good book to demonstrate consequences to children. I also think it could introduce many children to a culture different from their own.


An interesting story told about a man who stumbles into the role of village fortune teller and, in the process, gets everything he ever wished for. But, his fortune telling amounts to verbal riddles and double talk which I found amusing. The illustrations are based on the artists' observations when she visited Cameroon and are both captivating and funny—especially the little monkey who comes with the fortuneteller’s house. The text itself has no mention of culture or country, and I am glad the illustrator set it in Africa which adds a level of cultural exploration that would have been missing had the fortune tellers been European.


I LOVED the illustrations in this book! They were vibrant, detailed, and beautiful! The story was interesting. Basically, a carpenter decides he doesn't really want to be a carpenter for the rest of his life, and he decides to go and visit a fortune-teller that he has heard of in a neighboring town. He asks the fortune-teller questions about his future, and receives positive, yet somewhat misleading, answers. At first I thought that the fortune-teller was blowing smoke, but then when I read more carefully, I realized that he was being obviously honest, yet vague.The story is cute, but I wonder if young children would understand the sarcasm in the story or if they would brush right over the "ifs" in the fortunes and really think that fortune-tellers are real. I guess it wouldn't really matter for very young children. In the end, I think that the message of "life is what you make of it" is a good message for kids...they just might have to read it more than once to get it.


Not entirely sure why but this didn't work for me. Perhaps the story needed to be more flushed out - longer, or simplified.


I love reading this book with my kids. Especially Josh--as he just chuckles over the silliness of the fortunes given by the fortune teller! They think it's super funny what happens to the other fortune teller, too! I've read some reviews that tells how this isn't a good book, because it doesn't really teach a good moral. I beg to differ. For many reasons. First of all, I think it shows how life is really unpredictable and you just never know what will happen. Also, that you can make up your own 'fortunes' (I would call them goals, perhaps) and a lot can happen just using positive thinking. Another good reason is that this tale is based in Cameroon. Having lived there for a few years, I can tell you that this story is fairly indicative of their culture. Everyone believes in fortune tellers, and they're all pretty unhappy with their lot in life--no matter what it is. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, I love this story as it brings me back, both in story AND with the fabulous pictures, to our time in Cameroon. :) A great story.

Katherine Settle

I love the bright colors in this book and how much diversity it has. I think the fortune teller is only telling the carpenter what he wants to hear. But to children this would bring hope and happiness to their eyes. I don't think they should have hurt the fortune teller at the end, instead make it happier for the children.

Kristin Carney

I felt that the illustrations told more of the story than the dialogue. The illustration was very well detailed. The pictures filled up the page making it feel like a whole different atmosphere. I liked how this book had a little bit of humor. I honestly like how it was more of an African American setting. I thought it suited the book very well. I felt like this book was trying to tell the audience about how unpredictable life is. I think this gives a good life lesson for readers that unexpected things can happen in life and not a fortune teller has to tell you that. I really read more into the story and thought about how this story portrays life.


The illustrations are rich and detailed - absolutely gorgeous. The story is simple, but well-told. This is a fantastic picture book for reading aloud. If it had a slightly more significant "moral," I would have given the book five stars. As it is, I still don't mind recommending it as clever and well-written entertainment.


Tucked away for years in Mr. Alexander's attic this gem illustrated by Trina Hyman is for older picture book readers and folks looking for a clever story to tell. With wit and tongue firmly placed in cheek, this is a tale of a carpenter who seeks and finds his fortune.

Jeffrey Ellsworth

This book caught my eye because it is a picture book by Lloyd Alexander. A man receives his fortune that he will be rich if he makes money and live a long time if he doesn't die etc. The man then replaces the fortune-teller and becomes very rich and famous.

Katharine Snyder

While the illustrations in this book were gorgeous, and eye catching, the story itself confused me. At first a carpentar is unhappy with his life, so he goes to see his future, and after hearing he would be rich if he made a lot of money, and live for a long time, as long as he did not die; he believes that his life is going to turn out exactly as he wishes. Eventually he becomes the fortune teller, gets rich and has everything he heard the fortune teller told him. Essentially, the fortune teller told him what he wanted to hear, and he became the fortune teller, telling others what they wanted to hear. The message of this story, I believe, is that life is what you make it. What confused me the most was the fact that the fortune teller had such a bad fortune, and was never seen again. Could this be foreshadowing for the new fortune teller, or just a part of the story? As colorful and beautiful as the pictures were, the story was a little strange to me, perhaps because I am so used to the typical storyline, and I do not think the book is necessarily to blame for my confusion.


Fun, clever story. The art is AMAZING!!! Some of the cleverness went over my first grader's head. She chose it for the art because she rocks. I read it because it's Lloyd Alexander :-)

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