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Friday, January 15, 2010

Trick of the Tale, written by John and Caitlin Matthews and illustrated by Tomislav Tomic. Candlewick, Random House, 2008. $22.50 ages 8 and up

"The appeal of the trickster is simple - whether hungry wolf or helpless frog, the trickster finds a way to win out when all seems hopeless. Whatever its size, each trickster animal draws upon its own intelligence, abilities, and cunning resilience to bluff, cheat, dodge, or decoy - and so to escape from present danger and gain its freedom. Whether you are a clever fox or an underdog, these tales show you how to value life's gifts to the fullest."

I love trickster tales! What fun it would be to talk about the tricksters who 'people' this beautiful book with children who might recognize some of the characters inherent in these pages. They come from the world community; many are familiar to us, and some are not. They practice their craft with skill and cunning and they leave us wishing there were more than twenty to read and share. They provide great fodder for the storytellers in your classroom. Let them read them enough that they can take the story and make it their own, for telling to friends and family. Each begins with a note about the country of origin and the trickster involved. The language is uncomplicated and allows the intended audience access to the tales, which beg to be read aloud.

The art demands attention and admiration for this incredibly talented young Croatian artist. I noticed his detailed pen and ink drawings first in Wizardology (Candlewick, 2005)and am even more impressed this time. They look like the finest engravings and feature so many details that children and adults will pore over them for hours, thus ensuring they miss nothing. It is not simply the animals that benefit from his masterful touch; his textures, backdrops, and facial expressions are evidence that he is someone we should be watching in the future.

"And so Nyankopon gave Ananse all his stories. Now it is Ananse, Snatcher of Legends, Lord of all Liars, Spinner of Stories, to whom all beings pay respect when stories are told. Everyone, that is, except Aso, who said to her husband when he came home, 'Only you could sell your own mother for a bunch of stories!'"

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