cover image The Pasteboard Bandit

The Pasteboard Bandit

Langston Hughes, Arna Wendell Bontemps. Oxford University Press, USA, $16.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-19-511476-8

A 1935 collaboration between two Harlem Renaissance poets (who had three years earlier published Popo and Fifina), this deceptively simple story was initially rejected by a publisher and, decades later, donated to Yale by Hughes. The winsome tale of the friendship that flourishes between a Mexican boy and a boy from America has a timely message for today's youngsters. Set in Taxco, Mexico, and alternating between the voices of young Juanito Perez and Tito, the beloved papier-mache figurine he eventually gives to his American friend, the narrative provides a youthful perspective on the country's cultural traditions. The authors focus on such child-pleasing topics as holidays, food and learning to communicate, as the boys teach each other key words in Spanish and English--while gently underscoring the importance of tolerance, self-esteem and sharing. Exploding with vivid colors and fanciful patterns, Turley's (Armadillo Ray) full-bleed stylized paintings have a playful, collage-like quality; her black-and-white spot art breaks up some of the more text-laden pages. It's easy to believe that Bontemps and Hughes would be delighted with this animated volume--and that readers will be, too. Ages 8-12. (Nov.)