cover image The Littlest Grape Stomper

The Littlest Grape Stomper

Alan Madison, , illus. by Giselle Potter. . Random/Schwartz & Wade, $18.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-375-83675-6

In the vine-fringed, semicircular village of Ear, famous for its "scrumptious grape juice," lives Sixto Poblano, a boy so named for having six toes on each foot. Sixto frequently goes barefoot: "At the shoe store there was never a good fit, and when he ran he often tripped." On the plus side, he excels at kickball, and during a game his powerful tootsies come to the attention of a juice magnate. Boss Nova Boombatz, a shady guy with a pencil mustache and porkpie hat, recruits Sixto for harvest time: "We in Ear pick, pluck, and stomp—that is our sworn duty," Boombatz says persuasively. Sixto reluctantly climbs into a wooden barrel of grapes and stomps "once, then twice, and because his spare toes made his feet so worldly wide, all the juicy grapes were now grape juicy." The other stompers are amazed: "Two stomps? Unheard of!" In florid prose, Madison (Pecorino's First Concert ) elevates Sixto to legendary status, and details the downfall of taskmaster Boombatz. Potter (Sleeping Bobby ), whose drily funny paintings emit a folklorish, Old World quality, may be the ideal illustrator for this book. She concentrates on Sixto's feet and pictures him up to his chest in grapes, wearing nothing but briefs, yet still implies his melancholic dignity. She brings a festive carnival air to the grape stomping rituals. The discomfiting combination of bare feet and "deeeliciousss!" grape juice only adds to the flavor of this tall tale. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)