Reviewed with Sheila Hebert-Collins' 'T Pousette et 'T Poulette .Ages 3-7. Set in the heart of the Louisiana swampland, Petite Rouge blend lots of Cajun French language and culture into the lively storytelling. In Artell's funny, rhyming takeoff of "Little Red Riding Hood," the wolf is an alligator, and Petite Rouge is a sturdy young duck who doesn't need a woodcutter to rescue her. The alligator wants to have her for lunch, but she threatens him, "Dis pole gonna hit you / where you part your hair." With the help of her smart cat, she tricks the predator, and then she and Grand-mere sit down to a Cajun feast. Even older children will enjoy the mayhem and the parody, including the paintings in Grand-mere's house of solemn duck versions of the American Gothic and the Mona Lisa. There's a brief note on Cajun history and a glossary, but a storyteller familiar with the language will easily manage. Harris' wonderful watercolor-and-pencil pictures are filled with action and playful detail that extend the story. They make the alligator both scary and ridiculous--huge teeth and frilly nightgown are a perfect combination. ((Reviewed July 2001))Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Artell (Starry Skies) sets his funky, rhyming retelling in the Louisiana swamp, where a young duck named Petite Rouge sets out to bring her ailing Grand-mère a basket filled with bayou fare, including gumbo and boudin (sausage). Her mother issues an emphatic warning: "Don' stop in de swamp!/ Don' you stop on de way!/ 'Cause de swamp's fulla gators,/ Cher! Dat's where dey stay!" Sure enough, six or seven quatrains later, the duck comes across a gator named Claude, and "Petite Rouge gotta honch/ dat ol' Claude t'inkin' he'd/ like to have her fo' lonch." Even those who don't favor the dialect will laugh at Harris's (Ten Little Dinosaurs) abundantly witty watercolor and pencil illustrations. He excels at comic absurdity, as in the pictures of the enormous Claude stuffed into Grand-mère's bed, wearing frilly pajamas and matching hat, with swimming flippers on his feet and a rubber beak strapped onto his snout to make him look like a duck. Droll visual details include Grand-mère's reposing in curlers, the surreptitious adventures of some mice and an image of the duck's pet cat, TeJean, hoisting a bottle of red sauce in this version, the heroine pours hot sauce over a piece of boudin and tricks the gator into eating it, whereupon he runs to cool off his maws in the swamp. A sassy, spicy outing. Ages 5-up. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.