Email this review


In her fourth book, Tusa introduces Maebelle, a lovingly depicted black character who overwhelms the slight story that presents her. Maebelle is 108 years old and lives among the birds in a treehouse, making hats to sell, and hoping to win her town's annual hat contest. When she has finished an especially promising creation, her friend Binkle, a bird, asks to borrow a suitcase to pack all the things he plans to take while flying south. Although carrying a forked branch, rocks, dirt, flowers, elm leaves and his nest will make flying difficult, Binkle stubbornly refuses to relinquish anything. Maebelle then, with loving craftiness, persuades him to lend her the contents of the suitcase to create an entry for the hat contest. She builds a hat which does not win, except for originality, but does get put on display in the town museum--and Binkle, freed from his load, flies south, while Maebelle dreams of next year's contest. The story is contrived and rather weak, but proceeds smoothly in precise if not memorable prose. Binkle is a nicely feckless flake, but Maebelle, especially as Tusa draws her, attracts all the attention in the book as each line of her body seems to quiver with life, whether she sits wistfully or gently takes Binkle by the wing. If the story does not remain in the memory, Maebelle will.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1987
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Macmillan