GraceAnne A. DeCandido
K-Gr. 3. Tricksters from around the world echo in the character of Conejito, Little Rabbit, who emerges unscathed from a risky journey in this Panamanian folktale. He must go up the mountain to visit his aunt, but how will he evade Señor Zorro (Mr. Fox), Señor Tigre (Mr. Tiger), and Señor León (Mr. Lion)? Clever Conejito stalls, telling them that he is much too skinny (¡Flaquito!) but that when he returns from his aunt's he will be plump (¡Gordito!). Sure enough, Tía Mónica feeds him up until he is "healthy and strong and fat as a butterball," then sends him home with sly advice about how to distract the predators. Rhyming refrains invite the participation of young listeners, who will especially enjoy singing Conejito's special "Tía Mónica Song" to the tune provided, and repeating the smoothly incorporated Spanish words and phrases (for which a pronunciation guide is appended). Valério's splashy tropical colors and elongated, rubbery characters, often stretching across an entire spread, capture the tale's bouncing energy.
MacDonald weaves context-translated Spanish and a simple campfire song into this easy-to-learn tale of a young rabbit who outwits three predators with some help from his canny Auntie. Bounding up the mountain to grow, "¡Gordito! Gordito! Gordito!"
on Tía Mónica's cakes and cookies, Little Bunny encounters Señors Zorro, Tigre and León. Putting them off with a promise that he'll be much fatter coming back down, Conejito eats and dances with Tía Mónica until he's "healthy and strong and fat as a butterball!"—whereupon Tía Mónica pops him into a barrel and sends him rolling safely home. Valério uses warm colors in the full bleed illustrations, s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g out the ears and tails of his rubbery figures to create a sense of exuberant motion. A lively, and less violent, variation on Betsy Bang's Bengali version, The Old Woman and the Red Pumpkin
(1975), illustrated by Molly Garrett Bang. (source note) (Picture book/folktale. 6-8)
The title hero (whose name means "Little Rabbit") is off to visit his aunt in the mountains. "I have a sweet old auntie,/ my Tía Mónica!" sings Conejito. "And when she goes out dancing ... they all say, 'Ooo la la!'" He encounters three predators but escapes by promising them he'll be tastier on the way back: "[Tía Mónica] is going to feed me cakes and cookies and every good thing/ until I am ¡Gordito! ¡Gordito! ¡Gordito!"
But his aunt is clever, too, and after plumping up Conejito (with fruits and vegetables as well as sweets), she stuffs him into a barrel so he can roll past the danger and back to Mamá. MacDonald's (Fat Cat
) text, with its giddy, kick-up-your-heels feel, presents a wealth of audience participation opportunities. She's chosen 13 expressive Spanish words and phrases to punctuate the story, and repeats them judiciously throughout. The text also boasts several refrains in addition to the Tía Mónica song (which can be sung using the melody on the final page).
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Conejito ("little bunny") is off to his Auntie Tía Monica's house, where he will eat cakes and cookies and every good thing, and get "Strong! Strong! Strong!" He runs into a fox, a tiger, and then a lion who each proclaim, "I have just met my LUNCH!" bur Conejito convinces them he will make a much fatter and tastier morsel on the way home. Conejito and his auntie devise a plan to evade the hungry crew, and he returns home safe and sound (by rolling back in a barrel). MacDonald packs her adaptation of this Panamanian folktale with musical rhythms, repeatable phrases in Spanish and English, and melodic notation so listeners can sing along. Opportunities to yell phrases like "¡Gordito! ¡Gordito! ¡Gordito! Fat! Fat! Fat!" will appeal to kids no matter what their first language, and the cumulative and repetitive nature of the tale will guarantee that young listeners quickly catch on and join in. Brazilian illustrator Valerio captures the Latin flair of the text with a jungle motif and sizzling palette of gold and orange tipped with blue sky; lively, swirling figures paired with innovative compositions highlight the action. Loose brushstrokes and emotive body language (Conejito quivers at the sight of the lion; the fox licks his lips in anticipation) add nuance and comedy. This interactive tale will get listeners singing, dancing, and eating their fill right alongside Conejito. A source note is included. MH
The Bloomsbury Review
During a vacation journey to visit his aunt (Tia Monica), who is sure to fatten him up with her tasty cookies and cakes, Little Bunny outsmarts the hungry beasts he meets on his path who'd like to do a little fattening up of their own. At the end of the visit, Tia Monica devises an ingenious plan for his safe return home. Margaret Read MacDonald's fluent retelling of this folktale is packed with humor and suspense. The expert pacing and rhythmic lines of the story, interspersed with a few words in Spanish, will enthrall young listeners from start to finish. Valério's highly original illustrations, drenched in tropical yellows, pinks, and blues, depict elongated figures that stretch across the pages, creating a visual experience that is as fascinating as the tale itself. -Melanie Gregg