In an evocative debut flavored with basic Spanish words, Pitre and Hale introduce Juan Bobo, a folk figure commonly used to teach a moral: as Pitre explains in a foreword, bobo may mean ``fool,'' but Juan Bobo's ``silly ways'' lead to lessons for the ``so-called smart people.'' One Sunday morning, Juan Bobo's mother tells him to tend ``the puerquito , the pig'' while she's at church. Juan dutifully complies, but the pig seems unhappy. It won't eat the pork chop or drink the soda he brings. At last Juan decides that the pig wants to dress up and attend church, too. Hale suggests tropical climes with stylish prints that favor dark purple outlines and warm shades of yellow, green and turquoise; she imagines Juan Bobo's mother as a curvaceous woman who slips into a girdle and sexy dress before teetering away in red high heels, a parodic treatment that matches the story's light spirit. Readers unfamiliar with Spanish may run into trouble, for although Pitre translates each simple phrase (``Ay, que bueno , this is great''), he includes no pronunciation key (in at least one linguistic stumbling block, the pig's ``oink'' is translated as ``Chruuurh! Chruuurh!''). Nevertheless, his parable and Hale's spicy art provide a unique and playful look at the folk heroes of another culture. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)
This folk tale is spiced with Spanish words and some very modern twists. Skilled storyteller Pitre has created his own high-spirited version of Puerto Rico's folk hero, Juan Bobo.
According to the storyteller's detailed foreword, Juan Bobo is the trickster figure, the "wise fool" of Puerto Rican folklore. This retelling of a tale Pitre heard from his grandfather centers on a boy who cares for the family pig while his mother is at church. But when the "puerquito" gets noisy ("CHUUURH! CHUUURH!") and Juan Bobo can't soothe it with pork chops or soda, he dresses the animal up in Mami's best dress and sends it off (where else?) to church. Brightly colored and vigorous, the illustrations ("done to the accompaniment of salsa music") have a fifties, kitschy feeling. The most engaging sequence shows Mami's transition from wearing a kerchief and a man's shirt at the ironing board to wearing a sexy, off-the-shoulder dress over a full-length corset. The writing is also lively, but the constant translation of phrases ("Que tu quieres? What do you want?" "Bueno, good") is a bit much. The moral concerning people who use fancy clothes and jewelry to pretend to be someone they're not suggests that the tale has its roots in the way country people poked fun at their aristocratic rulers.