Like tricksters in traditions everywhere, “Chukfi Rabbit is lay-zeeee.”
In a time long ago, the narrator tells readers in an assured voice, Ms. Shukata Possum organizes “an everybody-work-together day to build her” a new house. Chukfi pleads prior commitments—until he hears that “fresh homemade butter” will be served with dinner. Well, that rotten rabbit shows up but disappears as soon as he can, going down to the spring where Ms. Possum is keeping the butter cool and eating it all up while feigning illness. Greedy Chukfi! When the workday is finished, he must pretend a great appetite, “even though his belly [is] great-big stuffed.” A giant, buttery belch betrays him, of course. Choctaw storyteller Rodgers invests the tale, found in the archives of the Oklahoma History Center, with plenty of humor and oral flair. From the spring, Chukfi hears the “saw-saw-sawing and the ham-ham-hammering”; as “they didn’t really have hammers back in those days, [the turtle] kindly agree[s]” to substitute. Choctaw illustrator Widener dresses her animal characters in a mélange of traditional and contemporary attire; Chula Fox and Luksi Turtle sport black, brimmed hats and tasseled belts, while Kinta Beaver wears a denim work shirt and a baseball cap. Both text and illustrations positively exude good humor.
Chukfi is a trickster worthy of the name, and this fresh, funny tale makes an excellent addition to the genre. (author’s notes) (Picture book. 5-8)