Another installment in Gerald McDermott's wise and whimsical trickster series, Jabutí the Tortoise
tells the tale of the Amazon jungle's shiny-shelled mischief-maker. Although Jabutí doesn't come across as the most clever trickster around in this particular retelling (he's duped by that crabby old Vulture and ends up getting bailed out by the King of Heaven), the colorful pipe-player and his songs are clearly well loved. Well, by everybody but his victims, that is: "Jaguar could remember when Jabutí tricked him into chasing his own tail," and "Tapir could remember when Jabutí tricked him into a tug-of-war with Whale." But we do get to learn how Tortoise's shell became cracked, and why Toucan, Macaw, and Hummingbird boast such brilliant colors.
Not the most notable entry in this region-by-region series, but beautiful and boldly colored nonetheless. Kids who aren't immediately hooked by Jabutí's story will likely still get drawn in by McDermott's vibrant colors and straightforward compositions of simply shaped jungle creatures set against a bright pink dawn. (Ages 4 to 8) Paul Hughes
From Publishers Weekly
With its shocking-pink jacket and swirls of brilliant designs, McDermott's retelling of this rain forest tale is visually arresting but narratively a bit colorless. The reputed trickster Jabut¡ gets his comeuppance when a jealous Vulture offers to fly the tortoise and his flute to the King of Heaven's festival of song, then wickedly drops his passenger down from the skies. The King of Heaven chastises the vulture, and the birds who put Jabut¡'s smooth shell back together again gain new feathers as their reward. Though Jabut¡'s shell is "cracked and patched," his "song is sweet." Oddly, Jabut¡ doesn't possess a trickster's lively intelligence or cleverness, and the story's plot is resolved by the God of Heaven's intervention rather than by the protagonist's cunning. The story begins with the animals that Jabut¡ has tricked, but they all disappear immediately in favor of a pourquoi tale about how the tortoise got the cracks on his shell. McDermott's illustrations, on the other hand, vibrate with electric colors and patterns. Jabuti's huge eyes and geometric smile, and the interior, brightly colored birds are startling when silhouetted against the pink sky. Ages 4-8.
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