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A Trickster Tale from the Amazon

by Gerald McDermott & illustrated by Gerald McDermott

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-15-200496-3
Publisher: Harcourt

Jabutí, the flute-playing tortoise, may not be as well known in North America as some of his fellow tricksters like Coyote or Ananse, but there are many stories about him in Amazonian folklore, first recorded as long ago as 1875. McDermott (Musicians of the Sun, 1997, etc.) gives readers a useful background note on the Brazilian stories about the tortoise and then refers to similar tales from the Panchatantra and Aesop. When the King of Heaven, Tupan, calls the birds to sing at a special feast, Jabutí wants to play the musical accompaniment for the birds’ songs. The problem is that Jabutí can’t fly. Although most birds are his friends, Vulture is envious of the tortoise’s musical talents. He hates Jabutí and want to destroy him. He offers to fly the unsuspecting tortoise to the feast, but during the flight, he purposely drops him and poor Jabutí cracks his colorful shell on the rock below. The King of Heaven sends the birds to rescue the tortoise and Toucan, Macaw, and Hummingbird work together to patch him up. These three faithful friends gain beautiful new colors as a result of their good deed, but the vulture retains his dull plumage and has no singing voice to this day. McDermott’s succinct text makes this an easy story for children and adults to retell. His simple, bold forms and bright tropical colors on a hot pink ground will keep all eyes on the book during picture-book sessions or individual reading. A fine addition to the body of work by a proven master. (Picture book/folktale. 5-8)