SIX FOOLISH FISHERMAN

Exercising the storyteller's prerogative to mix and match, San Souci (Secret of the Stones, 1999) takes incidents from several traditional “noodle” tales and sets them on the Louisiana bayou. When Ti-Paul, Philippe, and Pierre bring poles but no bait, and Jules, Jacques, and Jean bring bait but no poles, it looks like no one's going to fish. The misinterpreted advice of a passerby only muddies the waters, and the silliness escalates until Pierre decides that he must be dead, since no matter who does the tallying, there only seem to be five people present. Luckily, Pierre's wife, Henriette, arrives to set things straight, more or less. In Kennedy's (Mr. Bumble, 1997) cartoon illustrations, the six dim bulbs struggle through their misadventures wearing wide, vacuous smiles, as a frog and a turtle look on in vast amusement. The tale has a mild gumbo flavor, evoked more by cadence and pacing than dialect, and the droll goings-on will put readers and listeners—even those familiar with similar incidents in Alvin Schwartz's All of Our Noses Are Here (1985) and like collections—in stitches. (glossary, afterword, bibliography) (Picture book/folktale. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7868-0385-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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THE FISH SKIN

When Grandfather Sun pauses to admire his reflection in a lake, the villagers enjoy his warmth so much that they ask the clouds to leave—but they soon regret their impulse when the lingering sun parches the land. To save his people, a young man dons a magic fish skin, summons the clouds, and hurls lake water into the sky to fall as rain. This Cree legend about preserving balance in nature is retold in simple, fluid prose from an oral transmission. Morrisseau is a young artist of Chippewa extraction; his illustrations are sometimes overliteral (a ``dusty cough'' is depicted as a solid-looking mass ejected from Wolf's throat), with only scattered and sketchy details of Cree art or cultural style, and his juxtapositions of bright tones are far from subtle, but they do add color and feeling to the story. (Folklore/Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 19, 1993

ISBN: 1-56282-401-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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Less stylish than Ed Young’s classic Seven Blind Mice but a serviceable rendition nonetheless.

ELEPHANT IN THE DARK

An Iranian-American author recasts an anecdote from the Persian poet Rumi, itself based on a far older tale about perceiving parts of a truth rather than its whole.

Javaherbin adds characters and plot to the bare-bones original and reduces Rumi’s lengthy mystical exegesis to a line. So curious are local villagers about the strange beast Ahmad the merchant has brought from India that they sneak into the dark barn where the creature is kept. Each returns with a different impression: one trips over the animal’s nose and announces that it’s like a snake, but it is more like a tree to one who feels its leg, and so on. Their squabble is so intense that they don’t even notice when Ahmad arrives to lead the elephant out to the river—leaving each with “only a small piece of the truth.” Yelchin outfits the villagers in curly-toed slippers and loose, brightly patterned caftans. He also puts a nifty spin on the story by leaving the adults to argue obliviously but surrounding the elephant at the wordless end with smiling, plainly clearer-eyed children. Though the language is bland, the wildly gesticulating figures in the illustrations add a theatrical element, and the episode makes its points in a forthright way. An excellent source note traces the familiar tale back to its earliest versions.

Less stylish than Ed Young’s classic Seven Blind Mice but a serviceable rendition nonetheless. (Picture book/folk tale. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-63670-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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