Friday, March 8, 2013

Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood by Mike Artell

Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood by Mike Artell, illustrated by Jim Harris

Rating: 5 stars

Some books we read to educate, some to escape, some to inspire, some to answer deep questions.  But some books we read just to laugh.  Because laughter is delicious.

My husband is from Lafayette, Louisiana, so I've tried to make sure that our overstuffed bookshelves include some books that represent his story, his upbringing.  All books by Mike Artell should probably be in our house, permanently.  Not only are they written in fantastically creative verse with Cajun lingo infused in every beat, but they are wildly witty!

In Petite Rouge, Little Red Riding Hood is a duck, sent to visit her sick grandmother by pirogue (boat), across the swamp.  Instead of a wolf threatening her success, a 'gator named Claude is determined to take her lunch sack and life.  He scares Grandma away and dresses up like her (yup, it's a pretty hilarious illustration).  Petite Rouge outwits him by throwing some hot sauce-laden boudin (sausage) into his mouth, which causes a spicy eruption in his innards and he sends himself away for good.

But how the story is told makes that it so, so great!

Here's the part when Petite Rouge eyes up "Grandma" for the first time (read it out loud, it's better, trust me):
Ol' Claude make a smile,
an' he say, "It's dat flu.
It makes me all green wit' dem bomps,
dat's fo' tru'. 
"Why don' you come closer,
'cause I wanna se
all dat good food you mama
done cook fo' po' me. 
Petite Rouge Riding Hood
an' den Tejean de cat,
dey take a step closer
from where dey was at. 
Petite Rouge, she say, "Grand-mere!
I know you been sick,
but I t'ink mah eyes
be playin' on me a trick. 
"You mout' kinda big,
an' you nose kinda long,
an' I got me a feelin'
dat somet'in' bad wrong."
Every page or two I stopped to "translate" a bit for Lorelei and Ben, to make sure they comprehended the unfamiliar sounds coming out of my mouth.  I'm sure that if my husband heard me read this book (and Artell's other good one Three Little Cajun Pigs), that he'd probably cringe at some of my pronunciation--but that's the beauty of kids, they don't know!  They don't care!  It's like tripping a little when you're dancing a solo.  Will anyone really know?  Nope.  Just proceed with confidence and you'll be just fine.

This book is just downright fun--possibly more fun for the reader and other grown ups who appreciate the witty twists Artell produces.  It begs to be read aloud, which means it is, like all great things in life, meant to be shared.  If you've got a Cajun around you like I do, this is required reading dat's fo' tru'!

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