Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyIn this humorous tale, revised from an entry in the author's 1973 collection Behind the Back of the Mountain, an opportunistic rabbit on an African savanna unrepentantly cons her friends. She gets Ostrich to locate some berry bushes, slyly devours all the fruit and blames Ostrich for the theft. Then, to make up for the "missing" berries, Rabbit demands one of Ostrich's feathers, which she exchanges for other valuables. In the finale, mildly disappointing because it shows a punishment but no lesson learned, the trickster receives a mighty kick from Ostrich, along with the moral: "A lie may travel far, but the truth will overtake it." Consummate storyteller Aardema (Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears) reworks this Tonga folktale with her trademark onomatopoeia-Rabbit eats berries "lup, lup, lup"; Ostrich runs "tuk-pik, tuk-pik." Chess (Princess Gorilla and a New Kind of Water), using a tawny palette, crafts straw-yellow grasses, red-dirt roads and olive-green bushes, then tweaks her compositions with cagey details, such as giraffe-patterned tree trunks. She neatly frames the images in borders resembling woven reeds, and attires the guileful Rabbit in a clownish skirt of yellow-and-red feathers. As the action progresses, a golden sun sets to a red glow behind blue mountains, adding to this book's strong visual appeal. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Gisela JerniganIn this lively version of the cumulative Tongan folktale, crafty rabbit tricks various creatures, including an ostrich, a man, a woman, and an ant queen, into helping her get water from a well that she did not help dig. Although reflecting Tongan culture and environment, the story is reminiscent of "The Little Red Hen'" and is enlivened by onomatopoetic expressions. Watercolor and sepia illustrations bring out the humor of this tale.
School Library JournalK-Gr 3--A retelling of a Bantu fable, set in the "region north of the Limpopo River." When the animals' water hole runs dry, Rabbit refuses to help dig the new well, even though she expects to drink from it when it is finished. Lion and Elephant say, "No work, no water." Thirsty Rabbit complains to Ostrich, who generously shares some juicy berries. Rabbit goes back and devours every last berry but denies the theft, setting off a chain of events and trades with other animals that result in Rabbit's getting an old-fashioned kick in the seat for lying. Aardema's storytelling is highly readable, spiced with original sound effects such as Ostrich running ("tuk-pik, tuk-pik"). Chess interprets the tale nicely in her devilishly droll style. The characters' facial expressions are hilarious, particularly Rabbit's range of smug looks when someone new falls for her tricks. Watercolors in the bright earth tones of the African plain are detailed with light, textural hatching to suggest fur, feathers, parched soil, or the giraffe-skin bark of indigenous trees. Each drawing is framed with a sepia border, a zigzag design that resembles thatching. A satisfying tale of comeuppance.--Karen MacDonald, Teaticket Elementary School, MA
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