The classic Appalachian folktale “Sody Sallyraytus” loses its flavor in this retelling.
This cumulative tale has long been a favorite of storytellers who savored the dialect of Richard Chase’s version in Grandfather Tales (1948). A family in need of sody sallyraytus, or baking soda, for biscuits is done in by a hungry bear and saved by their pet squirrel. Paw Paw, brother, sister and finally Maw Maw each, in turn, head off to the store and on their return, run afoul of a very hungry bear under a bridge. Finally, the squirrel saves them and the baking soda. Chase included a tailor-made refrain that demands audience participation. De Las Casas’ version is unfortunately too wordy, and her refrain doesn’t scan comfortably. Putting a “big bad bear” in the title and repeating the phrase on almost every page unnecessarily adds a scary element and elevates the bear in importance over the squirrel. Gentry’s watercolor illustrations are too washed-out to have any visual impact. Her bear, oddly blue, would be a better fit in a version of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.” A recipe for buttery biscuits is included.
Readers would be advised to look elsewhere for more entertaining editions. (Picture book/folk tale. 4-7)