September 24, 2010
After waking up to the sounds of our crowing hen, I see that I need to consider the obvious. Here are several entertaining picture books on the subject of roosters.
Fans of Verna Aardema's Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears and Judy Sierra's "Toontoony Bird" will appreciate Alma Flor Ada's 1993 book The Rooster Who Went to His Uncle's Wedding: A Latin American Folktale. A handsome guy with mud on his beak can't get a soul—not the grass, not the river—to help him clean up. When the rooster meets a stick, he asks, "Dear stick, hard stick,/please hit the dog/that won't bite the lamb/that won't eat the grass/that won't clean my beak/so that I can go to my uncle's wedding." This kind of story is called a cumulative tale, and its repetitions, not to mention talking sticks and rivers, are sure to delight the read-aloud crowd. The Rooster was written by Alma Flor Ada, and illustrated in vivid colors by Kathleen Kuchera. The roo himself looks like an Aztec god.
A new book based on an old tale, The Rooster Prince of Breslov, is another keeper. When their spoiled son throws off his clothes and begins to peck the ground for crumbs, his royal parents panic. They call in magicians and a doctor ("the most serious case of...um...uh... roosterism I've ever seen"), but finally put their trust in an unassuming old man. His trick is to empathize rather than punish. (A parable for parents, no doubt.) The frail fellow catches the boy's interest by crowing and asking if he minds sharing his corn. The author, Ann Redisch Stampler, writes in an afterword that her grandmother used to tell her a version of this Yiddish folktale. Eugene Yelchin's pictures expand the story's strange and ultimately reassuring events.
A while back I reviewed Bob, a fabulously funny picture book (and cumulative tale) starring a rooster. From a 2007 post: "Bob is in search of a voice—a crow, in fact. But how to? The path to cock-a-doodle-do-dom takes some twists before he finds the ideal instruction."
Indiana's Allen County Public Library shares a good long list of cumulative-tale picture books.
Aardema, Verna. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears: A West African Tale. Dial Press, 1975.
Ada, Alma Flor. The Rooster Who Went to His Uncle's Wedding. Illustrated by Kathleen Kulchera. Whitebird/Putnam, 1993.
Pearson, Tracey Campbell. Bob. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2002.
Sierra, Judy. "The Toontoony Bird," from Silly & Sillier: Read-Aloud Tales from Around the World. Illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev. Knopf, 2002.
Stampler, Ann Redisch. The Rooster Prince of Breslov. Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. Clarion Books, 2010.