Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Madame Poulet and Monsieur Roach by Dianne de Las Casas, illustrated by Marita Gentry

Growing up in the rich storytelling country of the Appalachians, I latched on to stories and folktales when I was very young. There's something quite magical about listening to someone tell you a story, and I especially love to hear retellings of old classics I heard when I was a child. That's why when Pelican Publishing sent a copy of Dianne de Las Casas's The Cajun Cornbread Boy, a retelling of the Gingerbread Boy, it became a fast favorite in our house. In fact, my daughter asks me to read it to her often and even makes me chase her while she says, "Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me. I'm full of cayenne."

So, when Pelican sent a copy of Dianne de Las Casas's newest book, Madame Poulet and Monsieur Roach, we were eager to crack it open. Set in New Orleans back in the day when chickens and roaches were friends, Madame Poulet (a chicken) and Monsieur Roach (a roach of course) were best friends. They live together and are supposed to forage for food together, but lazy Monsieur Roach decides to pretend to be sick and invites all of his roach friends over for a marvelous fĂȘte while Madame Poulet is out looking for food. When Madame Poulet catches on, she gets a bit of revenge, and it's the end of friendships between chickens and roaches forever.

This is the kind of story that is meant to be read and acted out loud. You absolutely have to sing the song that the roaches sing while Madame Poulet is out (set to the tune of "La Cucharacha"). While the story is mostly set inside the New Orleans house of Madame Poulet and Monsieur Roach, Marita Gentry's illustrations give you colorful glimpses of New Orleans as Madame Poulet goes about her day foraging for food. With words and phrases like fĂȘte, madame, monsieur, and "Laissez les bons temps roule!" seamlessly sprinkled throughout, you get a sense of the city's Cajun culture. A glossary in the back defines all of the French words that are in the book.

This is the type of story you can really have fun with. Kids will laugh, especially at the stomach-turning ending.

Reading Level: Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Pelican Publishing (September 8, 2009) |
ISBN-13: 978-1589806863 | Source: Review copy from publisher

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