Bouki Dances the Kokioko: A Comical Tale from Haiti

Diane Wolkstein, Author, Jesse Sweetwater, Illustrator Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P $15 (32p) ISBN 978-0-15-200034-9
The players in this breezy trickster tale are Malice, the duplicitous gardener to the king of Haiti, and a tubby dupe named Bouki. The king offers 5000 gourdes to anyone who can do the Kokioko, a dance he has secretly invented so he can be entertained while everyone auditions in vain. But Malice, who spies the king doing the Kokioko, conveys the steps to Bouki and convinces him to enter the contest. Bouki wins the gourdes, but, of course, is tricked out of them by Malice. Wolkstein introduces these fixtures of Haitian folklore with crisp language and pacing. The real attraction, however, is the vibrant, tropics-infused artwork. Sweetwater's debut is an explosion of fresh contrasts--riotous colors splashed on fields of white, and brown-toned skins outlined in lavender, for example. Details like a snake wrapped around a fruit-laden tree when Malice robs Bouki of his gourdes add to the fun. Although some may wish for complete Kokioko dance-step instructions, children will likely appreciate this eye-popping tale even if they've never put their toes to a dance floor. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
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