Veteran children's lit professor Coleen Salley tells a variation on her signature story, an archetypal "noodlehead" tale based on the time-honored Southern legend of Epaminondas. A "sweet patootie" named Epossumondas headlines here as a be-diapered young possum who follows his mama's instructions a little too literally.
"Queen Coleen" (as Salley sometimes goes in her native New Orleans) tells her story in slow, old-South cadence, repeating a cycle where Epossumondas visits his auntie "most every day" and receives something to take home to his mama's. His gifts, however, never seem to arrive intact: After Epossumondas arrives home with a piece of cake that's been squinched into a fistful of crumbs, his mama scolds, "Oh, Epossumondas, you don't have the sense you were born with! That's no way to carry cake! The way to carry cake is to put the cake on your head, put a hat on your head, and come along home." But the next day, Auntie gives him butter, which then gets carried home cake-style (on his head). The next day, he gets "a sweet little puppy," which then gets carried home butter-style (wrapped in leaves and cooled in a brook), etc.
Caldecott Honor-winner Janet Stevens has obvious fun capturing Epossumondas's ridiculous errands in watercolor and colored pencil, especially as other bayou animals look on in puzzlement. But Steven's biggest coup has to be conveying the story's subtle secret--that Epossumondas might not be as dumb as he looks. (Ages 4 to 8) --Paul Hughes
From Publishers Weekly
Foolish Jack is cast here as a pampered, over-mothered Louisiana possum in a refreshingly retold version by New Orleans storyteller Salley (Who's That Trippin' over My Bridge?). This familiar story takes on new silliness as the improbable possum-child interacts with his human mother. And what a mother (fans of Stevens's To Market, to Market will recognize her as the same model)! Stevens, in wickedly observant pencil and watercolor illustrations, characterizes the doting matriarch and her sister as matronly, doughy-cheeked ladies in cat-eye glasses and flowery dresses circa 1952. When the aunt sends cake home with Epossumondas, he scrunches it in his hand and ruins it. His mother chides him, "Oh, Epossumondas, you don't have the sense you were born with!" and advises him next time to carry cake on his head. When his auntie gives him butter, he unthinkingly follows his mother's advice regarding cake transport. "What you got, Epossumondas?" a raccoon asks, as the butter streams down the possum's face. "Butter," he replied. "Hmm. Don't look much like butter to me," Raccoon says drily. Salley narrates the series of mishaps with a storyteller's impeccable timing and a pleasing Southern patois that should inspire many spirited read-alouds. A note at book's end gives an overview of the tale's many incarnations all over the world. Ages 3-7.
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