THE BACHELOR AND THE BEAN

Shelley Fowles, Author, Shelley Fowles, Illustrator . FSG $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-30478-2

Fowles's debut, which retells a Jewish folktale ("The Old Bachelor Who Lost a Bean," from Pinhas Sadeh's Jewish Folktales), sparkles with lively color but is chockablock with mean-spirited characters. The tale takes place in a Moroccan village, where a white-bearded bachelor buys "a snack of cooked beans in the market." When his last bean slips down a well, he rants and raves, provoking a turbaned, bejeweled "imp" to pop out of the water. "By the hair of my grandmother's beard! It is only a miserable bean!" the djinn gripes, then gives the man a magic pot in recompense. That night, a "jealous old lady" steals the pot for herself, and the bachelor demands a new pot from the grudging imp. Eventually, the man confronts the thief, with unexpected results; as they snipe at each other, a dove, cupid and Valentine's heart bloom in the pink sky. "Such a nasty temper! Such awful manners.... What a wonderful woman!" the bachelor thinks. They marry, "[a]nd from then on, I am happy to say, their quarrels could be heard from one end of town to the other!" Fowles uses deeply saturated hues of Mediterranean blue, aqua, fuchsia and gold to depict the town's kaleidoscopic mosaic tiles, stained glass and picturesque adobe dwellings; the characters wear flowing, patterned robes. Her exoticized portrait of a surly man and a dishonest woman leaves a bitter taste, however, and a wish for a more enlightened depiction of marriage and Moroccan life. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/03/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 32 pages - 978-1-84507-020-5
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