a Southern noodlehead

on

30 DAYS OF PB 2013 aDay Five: Epossumondas

Written by Coleen Salley, Illustrations by Janet Stevens

Harcourt, 2002.

epossumondas

Renowned storyteller Coleen Salley and Caldecott Honor illustrator Janet Stevens team up for this outrageous twist on the Southern story of the noodlehead who takes everything way too literally. (Or is that Epossumondas just pulling his mama’s leg?)–publisher’s comments

I’m not sure it is possible to read this one without a Southern drawl or an occasional shake of the head; which, by the way, is not a bad thing at. all.

The tone of the story is set by the title page. Epossumondas, our opossum protagonist, is larger than life and full-color/opaque on a neutral-tone/translucent background. And he is wearing a pinned cloth diaper. Honestly, I’m not sure what Auntie was thinking giving this “sweet little patootie” that slice of cake.

Mama advises Epossumondas on how he should have carried the cake, advice he mistakenly believes applies to the transportation of freshly churned butter (everyone knows that goes straight into the stomach, bread optional). It is much to our delight that by the time Auntie gives him a puppy and then the bread to take home to Mama, the reader/listener knows what is going to happen. For the finale: the pies are that quick intake of breath that anticipates Epossumondas. Southern storytelling traditions involve that well-timed punch-line. Epossumondas translates nicely onto the page.

epossumondas walking-the-bread

Basing the story on traditional folktales passed around through an oral tradition and subject to shifting details, the line work reiterates the sketched, malleable quality of such a tale. The smooth color and realism of the women, in particular, lend it possibility. As author Coleen Salley writes in the “Storyteller’s Note,” “The plot [of a noodlehead story] may be highly improbable, but not impossible–it could happen.” There is something there that rings true, and not in any passing familiarity with Amelia Bedelia‘s silly literalness. It’s in wondering just who the noodlehead is in this story, and who the very clever devil (in diapers) is…

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I’m guessing anyone with a passing love for Southern storytelling will find Epossumondas just too funny (and by “too funny,” I mean just right). And there are more Epossumondas books!

The late Ms. Salley is quoted as saying, “I don’t want children to read just to perfect their reading. I want them to love books for the joy of it.” Epossumondas works toward fostering that love of books via the pleasure of a well-spun story; a story sweetened with that gentle and silly humor the “Note” so highly regards in tales like Epossumondas.

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Thanks for recommending this one Sharie!

{images belong to Janet Stevens}

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