Saturday, October 24, 2009

Love and Roast Chicken

love and roast chicken trickster's tale from andes book reviewLove and Roast Chicken
A Trickster Tale from the Andes Mountains
written and illustrated by Barbara Knutson (2004)

Suggested age: 5-8 years
Country/Region:Andean South America
Category: Folklore, Humor, Multicultural

Trickster's tales worldwide typically deal with the use of trickery to outwit strong opponents against whom mere physical combat would lead to certain defeat. Author Barbara Knutson's notes that a trickster's tale usually is about a small animal (or a person), who uses brains instead of force to compete against bigger fiercer character.

Love and Roast Chicken is a trickster's tale from the Andes mountains, where the traditional trickster is the small gray fox. However, this is a special story about a quick-thinking guinea pig, Cuy, as the trickster who manages to escape the clutches of Tío Antonio, the wily fox, through a series of clever capers that is bound to elicit a chuckle or two from the young readers.

From claiming that the sky is falling, to the world ending in a rain of fire, we willingly side with the clever Cuy, cheering him on as he barely escapes from the clutches of the hungry Tío Antonio at each unfortunate encounter. Cuy even manages to trick the farmer into employing him and ends up feasting on the farmer's alfalfa patch. But when caught red handed, does Cuy give up? And while tied up and awaiting certain death at the Farmer's hands, when Tío Antonio comes along drooling and bursting with vengeance, will Cuy's wits finally abandon him?

As the author notes, with its rich oral folklore tradition, trickster's tales are never told the same way twice in the Andes, which makes it a very interesting exercise for the story-teller as well as an exhilarating experience for the listener. And, while the stories can sometimes convey morals, they are typically light and casual.

The challenge, I imagine, would be to balance the spunky little trickster's artifice with the sorry fate of the hapless predator. Make the predator too foolish, or the trickster too laid-back, and the story falls flat. In that sense, Love and Roast Chicken is fine-tuned to the readers' expectations, making this an enjoyable read, with the youngsters possibly rooting for Cuy enthusiastically.

Cuy seems just as charismatic as his trickster counterparts in various cultures, with shades of Brer Rabbit, or his more modern version - viz., Bugs Bunny - considering that a guinea pig is possibly one of the least likely candidates for the trickster's part.

Among the wonderful books I've been fortunate to come across, the ones that were written and illustrated by the same person seem to have a certain definition and edge to it that is hard to miss. Love and Roast Chicken is no exception. The relief style xylography with bold black outlines colored in with shades of browns and grays and purples, plus yellows and oranges for daylight, projects a certain simplistic charm that complements the narration rather well.

Many Indian tales like the Panchatantra or Jataka rely on animals and birds with certain extraordinary qualities to illustrate a point. In that sense, Love and Roast Chicken is reminiscent of some of the Panchatantra tales from my childhood which reinforced the philosophy of trusting brains rather than brawn to come out of a tight situation unscathed, or just slightly scathed.

Glossary at the back of the book lists some words in Quechua along with the Spanish ones, with a pronunciation key. Usually, this is the first part I look for in a book as it lets me read the story without feeling strangely alienated, and provides an opportunity to practice those words with the young ones I am reading to.

7 comments:

Praba said...

A neat treat, Sheela! You balance it so beautifully - a "light, casual and fun" pick, after Abuela's Weaves!

Both reviews were equally delightful to read. Thank you! :-)

meera sriram said...

Kids always love such humor! And when the exposure to a different culture and some life lessons are thrown in, they are so wonderful for them!

Sheela, you will realize, in a day or two, that we have similar tastes....I'll leave it at that:)

Kodi's Mom said...

Bugs Bunny meets Panchatantra? what a delight!
You know, Sheela, I always make note of the artistic terms you use to describe the illustrations. and watch for those when I check out the book myself.
Thanks for sharing this with us!

utbtkids said...

Panchatantra, oh bring it on. One can never be too old for the Jakatas/Panchatantra/trickster tales :)

ChoxBox said...

Nice! Trickster tales are fun! What is interesting is the fact that they appeal to the sense of humour of a wide range of readers, right?!

Can think of The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson as another example. Read that one?

Poppy said...

Y'know Sheela, the stories my daughter enjoys most are the ones that come with no morals at all :)

Sheela said...

::Praba: thanks!
::Meera: just catching up - and yes, i do see the connection now between our reviews - coincidence?!
::Kodi's Mom: thanks! is it ok to admit i still love Bugs Bunny?!
::utbtkids: you are spot-on - something about rooting for the underdog gets our spirits chuckling, right?!
::choxbox: right you are - it would be a sad day when i feel too 'grown up' to appreciate humor. and yes, Gruffalo was a big hit with Ana about a year ago - loved the meter and the story - it was fun to read aloud... maybe i should see if Og is ready for it...
::Poppy: so true! well, as long as the moral doesn't smother the presentation, i am ok with it, i guess...

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