Friday, July 22, 2011

Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood

Artell, Mike. 2001. Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood. Ill. by Jim Harris. New York: Penguin.

While I was in New Orleans, I attended the 8th Annual Poetry Blast sponsored by ALSC. As I mentioned on the ALSC blog, one of the highlights of the evening was Mike Artell's reading of his book Petite Rouge.  Of all the fractured folktales that I've ever heard, this has got to be one of my all-time favorites! Hearing it in New Orleans, in Cajun country, made it that much better. I went down to the French Quarter and purchased a copy the very next morning.

In Artell's version, Petite Rouge and her cat set off in a pirouge (a small boat used with a pole to travel the bayous) to grand-mère's house, carrying homemade gumbo. 

In the swamp, she runs into a wily gator named Claude,

Dey don' be gone long
when dey see by a stomp,
a big, long, green log
dat got plenty a' bomp.

Dat log it come close
to de pirouge and say,
"Now what you two doin' out here ...
si'l vous plait?"

It was Claude, dat ol' gator.
Petite Rouge gotta honch
dat ol' Claude t'inkin' he'd
like to have her fo' lunch.

Petite Rouge uses her pole to get away, but old Claude catches up with her at grandma's house, with very funny results involving TeJean, the cat, and a bottle of Cajun hot sauce.

It's hard to say what's funnier - the story, or Jim Harris' detailed and expressive illustrations.

© Jim Harris
For a real treat, or some pronunciation help, you can download or listen to mp3 files of Mike Artell reading Petite Rouge here. His narration is flawlessly funny!

Also, be sure to check out illustrator Jim Harris' site for some backstory, photos of bayou homes that inspired Petite Rouge's, and preliminary drawings for the book.

Included in the book is a brief history of Cajun people and a glossary of unfamiliar words with their phonetic spellings as well.
Great fun!  Perfect for sharing with all ages!  With some practice, I think I'll be able to read this one on school visits.

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