Reviews of children's and young adult books old and new

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Don't Listen to This Cuckoo Sing

Cuckoo retold and illustrated by Lois Ehlert

This is a retelling of an old Mayan tale about the Cuckoo and some other forest animals. Written in English and Spanish the story begins with Cuckoo knowing it was beautiful and the other animals thinking she was lazy for just singing about her beauty all day. Cuckoo did not help with collecting seeds to store up through the winter for next year's planting. That night Cuckoo is up and bored and flies to mole's hole where the seeds are stored. There is a fire and no time to wake the other birds to help, it is up to Cuckoo to save the food stores. Cuckoo works all night and is able to save every seed. In the morning she is blackened and hoarse but she can still sing "cuckoo." The other animals realize that Cuckoo is not lazy even though beautiful.

This is an odd story. I was waiting for a moral at the end or maybe an explanation of why certain birds act they way they do, but nothing like that happened. There is a little moral in not judging people by their appearance but the birds were right in the beginning, Cuckoo was not helping the other animals. Maybe the moral is that people can change or step up to a challenge, but I don't see that as a moral but as good advice for life. The story itself is fine, but I didn't particularly care for it. There was something missing for me, maybe it was the moral, but I think it was something else. Perhaps the lack of description of the other animals, the abrupt way the story ends, the disconcerting illustrations, or everything combined made this story not one of my favorites. The illustrations are not bad, but the color choices are hard to look at. There are a lot of pink on reds and red on reds that make you squint to see the outline of the form you are looking at. I did think it was interesting that some of the illustrations are cutouts with the negative space showing you what is happening and some are made of shapes that are pinned together but having those two techniques in the same story with the awful colors made me not like looking at the pages. Overall, I do not recommend. It is not a bad book, but one that I do not think is worth your time. If you are looking for a read aloud with very bright colors, cutout illustrations, or an ancient Mayan tale give it a try, but otherwise do not bother.

No comments:

Post a Comment