As his name would suggest, Toto Gourmand likes to eat. When Big Mami-his grandmother-undertakes a trip to the local market he is delighted to come along, and once there, the chunky toddler wastes no time in getting his first mouthful-and into his first scrape. Tchana and Pami, debut authors and sisters-in-law with firsthand knowledge of this tale's Cameroonian setting, establish a keen sense of place through the unusual foodstuffs of the market as well as the occasional use of local language. While his grandmother's back is turned, the voracious Toto scatters puffpuffs, steals an egg, falls into a barrel of palm oil, gorges on koki and cassava and, back at home, gets into the egussi soup intended for dinner. While Toto has plenty of brio, the premise of a supremely gluttonous toddler may wear thin even before Big Mami runs out of money to reimburse the merchants. Bootman's (Louise's Gift) gleaming, realistic oil paintings have colorful, solid backgrounds and plenty of detail, however, they tend to freeze the characters in stagy poses. In an amusing touch, the words "Oh, No, Toto!" are emblazoned behind the text on several pages. A glossary further identifies the Cameroonian foods, and the back cover provides a recipe for egussi soup. Ages 4-7. (Apr.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2A toddler called Toto Gourmand (the "Hungry One") trails along after his grandmother at a Cameroon market while she shops for the ingredients for egussi soup. Toto climbs and grabs with a two year old's inquisitiveness. Told he may have one puffpuff, a type of doughnut treat, he looks for the largest, which of course is at the bottom of a pile that comes tumbling down. By the end of the shopping trip, he is covered in palm oil and sand. Once home, he eats up all the egussi soup and then falls asleep. The phrase "Oh, No, Toto!" is printed in soft pastels as a background for the text, making the refrain literally echo throughout the tale. Bootman's oil paintings have a dark palette of rich browns to capture the movements of this energetic child from precarious climbing to exhausted contentment. Although the story focuses on a toddler, the vocabulary is more appropriate for an older audience. Elements such as a glossary of Cameroonian foods, suggestions for other books set in the same country, and a recipe for soup make this book a good choice for children studying different countries. Like a spoonful of sugar, this tale is a sweet and easy way to get a taste of another culture.Judith Gloyer, Milwaukee Public Library
A neat slice of Cameroonian life. Terrible two-year-old Toto can't get enough to eat and can't stay out of trouble. When his grandmother, Big Mami, takes him to market, Toto's business as usual includes knocking over a pile of puffpuffs to get the choicest one from the bottom of the heap, tumbling into a vat of palm oil, and scarfing an entire plate of koki. "Oh, no, Toto!" is the refrain, but Big Mami knows that he is "too little to know any better," and can't get mad at the little bundle. Ushered home by his exhausted grandmother, Toto tucks into a pot of egussi soup and inevitably falls asleep. Tchana and Pami breathe life into the West African market scene, introducing readers to some of the local foodstuffs (a glossary of terms is included, along with a recipe for soup) and sprinkle the text with patois: "Mami Peter! How now?" The strong oil paintings convey warmth, while Bootman shows a real knack for exaggerated gestures, e.g., Big Mami slapping her forehead at Toto's shenanigans, and even better, Toto's face—forlorn and covetous—as he passes a bowl of vegetables on his way to the bath. A title that teaches through laughter and affection.