Pickin' Peas) spry retelling of an African folktale, in which a mouse imparts the importance of using all the senses, is alight with humor (&"/>

MABELA THE CLEVER

Margaret Read MacDonald, Author, Tim Coffey, Illustrator , illus. by Tim Coffey. Albert Whitman $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8075-4902-5

MacDonald's (Pickin' Peas) spry retelling of an African folktale, in which a mouse imparts the importance of using all the senses, is alight with humor (" 'Oh, my, you have ALL arrived!' said the Cat. 'How delicious... I mean, how delightful.' "). Tricked by a cat into thinking they're being initiated into his secret society, a village full of mice foolishly learn and obey the words to the club's song: "When we are marching,/ we never look back!/ The cat is at the end,/ Fo Feng!/ Fo Feng!" He promptly absconds with the last mouse in line at each refrain ("Every time the mice shouted Fo Feng! The Cat Fo Fenged another mouse!"). Leading the procession is little Mabela, who has been taught to keep her ears and eyes open, pay attention and, if necessary, "move fast!" Which is exactly what she does once she figures out what Cat is up to, and traps her pursuer, thereby saving all the captured mice. Coffey (Red Berry Wool) plays up the comedy in his subtly exaggerated illustrations. Cat's sharply angular face and elongated oval eyes make an amusing visual contrast to the plump, google-eyed, multi-colored mice. His acrylics on watercolor paper textured with gesso create an appealingly tactile quality, and the uncluttered setting of thatched-roof huts, tawny plains and vibrant greenery are punctuated by bright red-and-purple geometric borders that recall African fabrics. Ages 4-7. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 03/01/2001
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