cover image Juan Bobo and the Pig: 9

Juan Bobo and the Pig: 9

Felix Pitre. Dutton Books, $13.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-67429-0

In an evocative debut flavored with basic Spanish words, Pitre and Hale introduce Juan Bobo, a folk figure commonly used to teach a moral: as Pitre explains in a foreword, bobo may mean ``fool,'' but Juan Bobo's ``silly ways'' lead to lessons for the ``so-called smart people.'' One Sunday morning, Juan Bobo's mother tells him to tend ``the puerquito , the pig'' while she's at church. Juan dutifully complies, but the pig seems unhappy. It won't eat the pork chop or drink the soda he brings. At last Juan decides that the pig wants to dress up and attend church, too. Hale suggests tropical climes with stylish prints that favor dark purple outlines and warm shades of yellow, green and turquoise; she imagines Juan Bobo's mother as a curvaceous woman who slips into a girdle and sexy dress before teetering away in red high heels, a parodic treatment that matches the story's light spirit. Readers unfamiliar with Spanish may run into trouble, for although Pitre translates each simple phrase (``Ay, que bueno , this is great''), he includes no pronunciation key (in at least one linguistic stumbling block, the pig's ``oink'' is translated as ``Chruuurh! Chruuurh!''). Nevertheless, his parable and Hale's spicy art provide a unique and playful look at the folk heroes of another culture. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)