Vibrant paintings embellish a chapter book based on an elephant character Jaffrey's father invented during her childhood in India. Robi Dobi, an elephant who rescues smaller animals, first encounters Kabbi, a mouse turned orange by a smelly snake-witch, who wishes to spot him when she's hungry. Robi Dobi suggests a curative pilgrimage to the Great Painter in the Sky. On the way, they encounter an injured butterfly air-ballerina and a kidnapped parrot princess. After considerable heroics involving the purple panther wedding liturgy, the "Tree of Flexible Glue" and the "Cave of Healing Liquids," the now-brown Kabbi et al. return to boil the snake-witch in her own bubbling brew. Jaffrey's Seasons of Splendour text is sprinkled with adventurous spirit and farcical detail. But it's Hall's How the Leopard Got His Spots delicious illustrations, both color and black-and-white, that breathe life into these characters, from the moment elephant rescues mouse in a dark purple monsoon, trees bending and river churning, to the victorious parade of Robi Dobi and the rescued mice at the close. All ages. Sept.
- Uma Krishnaswami
Coming many years as it does after Jaffrey's first book for children, Stories of Splendour, this is a textured collection of original tales that weave together around the travels of Robi Dobi the elephant. As he journeys home to his family, it begins to rain and Robi Dobi starts to take on passengers. The journey turns into a mission to set the world to rights. It involves a wicked witch, who gets her just desserts (this ending is mercifully deft, but not for the faint of heart). These tales draw on traditional storytelling styles, but have contemporary twists that will draw a laugh. Hall's illustrations add vibrant detail to the text, and the endpapers are delightful.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3A mouse painted orange by an evil witch, a parrot princess captured by a troop of predatory purple panthers, and a broken-winged butterfly all figure in the adventures of Robi the elephant. A contemporary touch or two (e.g., spray paint) enlivens the mostly stock fairy-tale elements, as the friendly elephant meets and assists several troubled animals. Robi's willingness to help those in need is rewarded only by further adventure; episodic excitement, rather than a moral, seems to be the point of the narrative. In vignette, full-, and double-page formats, the illustrations freely interpret an Indian palette, style, and motifs. Pink, jade, lavender, turquoise, and bright orange pictures alternate with half-tones in the flat, stylized, but lively renderings. This book lacks the richness of Jaffrey's Seasons of Splendour (Puffin, 1987), but manages to keep readers' interest without ever allowing a doubt about the eventual happy ending.Patricia Lothrop-Green, St. George's School, Newport, RI
Jaffrey (Market Days, 1995, etc.) presents a cycle of adventures in which Robi Dobi, an Indian elephant, benevolently allows small, troubled creatures to come into his ear where it is warm and safe and to venture forth with him to resolve their problems. First he meets Kabbi Wahabbi, a mouse spray-painted bright orange by the wicked snake-witch Slimy Kimey; then Maya Wishkaya, a butterfly dancer whose ambition has landed her with a bum wing; and finally, some green parrots, intent on rescuing their Princess Tara from the Wicked Purple Panthers. After a tantalizing preface about Jaffrey's childhood in India comes melodramatic, cliff-hanging events that are reminiscent, in their derring-do, of George Lucas's interpretations of horse opera, although without a smidge of informing philosophy, or a real sense of the setting and characters. A typographical error tips the tale into the surreal: Having never before referred to himself in the third person, Robi says, "Let's go. Maya and Robi, you stay in my ear." Among the bright spots in this blancmange of intrepidity is Kabbi Wahabbi's witty reiteration of his situational equivocation"If I wasn't orange, if I wasn't so far from home, and if I wasn't worrying about my family, I would really enjoy this." (Whatever happened to the subjunctive?) Hall's truly magnificent illustrations work overtime against the precious text to personalize the sweep and swirl of the world of these exotic animals.