PETITE ROUGE: A Cajun Red Riding Hood

Mike Artell, Author, Jim Harris, Illustrator , illus. by Jim Harris. Dial $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8037-2514-0

Artell (Starry Skies) sets his funky, rhyming retelling in the Louisiana swamp, where a young duck named Petite Rouge sets out to bring her ailing Grand-mère a basket filled with bayou fare, including gumbo and boudin (sausage). Her mother issues an emphatic warning: "Don' stop in de swamp!/ Don' you stop on de way!/ 'Cause de swamp's fulla gators,/ Cher! Dat's where dey stay!" Sure enough, six or seven quatrains later, the duck comes across a gator named Claude, and "Petite Rouge gotta honch/ dat ol' Claude t'inkin' he'd/ like to have her fo' lonch." Even those who don't favor the dialect will laugh at Harris's (Ten Little Dinosaurs) abundantly witty watercolor and pencil illustrations. He excels at comic absurdity, as in the pictures of the enormous Claude stuffed into Grand-mère's bed, wearing frilly pajamas and matching hat, with swimming flippers on his feet and a rubber beak strapped onto his snout to make him look like a duck. Droll visual details include Grand-mère's reposing in curlers, the surreptitious adventures of some mice and an image of the duck's pet cat, TeJean, hoisting a bottle of red sauce—in this version, the heroine pours hot sauce over a piece of boudin and tricks the gator into eating it, whereupon he runs to cool off his maws in the swamp. A sassy, spicy outing. Ages 5-up. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/07/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Paperback - 32 pages - 978-0-14-250070-5
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