A new take on The Little Red Hen Cajun style
Poor Monsieur Gator is getting old and is moving so slow he can't catch himself a taste of possum or otter, or even a whiff of skunk. Day after day those animals tease and taunt him until, finally, he decides to cook up some gumbo just like Maman used to make. But who will help him boil, catch, sprinkle, and chop? Certainly not rude Mademoiselle Possum, ornery Monsieur Otter, or sassy Madame Skunk. But when the gumbo is ready, they're more than eager to enjoy the result of Gator's hard work and as they run to get a taste - "Slurp! Slip! Plop! Them animals go into the pot." "Mmm-mmm," says Monsieur Gator. "Now, this is gumbo just like Maman used to make."
Illustrated with wit and whimsy, this mischievous tale will have young readers laughing out loud.
Until its rather shocking ending, this humorous picture book with its Cajun-flavored language and sly watercolors, contains many ingredients found in traditional tales. Like Br'er Rabbit, Possum pretends to be scared of aged Monsieur Gator as he taunts, "Puhleeze, don't eat me!" Reminiscent of The Gingerbread Man, Fleming's (Who Invited You?) three villains chant: "Try, try, as hard as you can! You can't catch us,' cause you're an old man!" And like the barnyard animals in The Little Red Hen, Mademoiselle Possum, Monsieur Otter and Madame Skunk all refuse to help as Monsieur Gator chops and peels the ingredients into the cauldron to make gumbo. The wily alligator lures the mischievous animals closer and closer to the pot until "Slurp! Slip! Plop! Them animals go into the pot" and he eats them, "Mmm-mmm!" Dynamic and full of atmosphere, Lambert's (Barkus, Sly and the Golden Egg) pictures start out showing the alligator as victim and emphasizing the nastiness of the trio's pranks (they pelt him with eggs, sticks and stones), the lushness of the bayou setting only slightly vitiating his misery. But given that these animals are smaller, younger and come to look more innocent than the increasingly squinty-eyed, sneaky Monsieur Gator, it's also likely that the audience will have identified with them. Although kids may wish for the characters' comeuppance, the bad guys haven't been bad enough for their demise to be satisfying, and the comedy isn't broad enough to make the final joke all that funny. Ages 4-8. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.