Illustrator: Emily Lisker
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on August 1, 2002
Source: On shelves
Genres: Childrens, Folktale
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"My toes are suffering," says Malese as he stretches out in his hammock. "They need new shoes, that's what they need." Malese has not a penny to his name and nothing to trade, but does he worry? Not at all. His pockets may be empty, but his mind is full of clever ideas. It isn't long before he's thought up a trick to get himself some fine new shoes. From marketplace to mountainside, Malese outsmarts his neighbors with trick after trick, until they've had enough and are determined, for once, to get the best of him.
Readers will giggle when they see who gets the best of whom in this fresh and funny trickster tale, illustrated with art that explodes with the brilliant colors of Haiti.
Today’s Tale is a retelling of a story from Haiti. The back of the book explains that in Haiti, the trickster is known as Malese, derived from the French “malice”. Sometimes Malese is evil and sometimes he is mischievous, but above all, he enjoys taking advantage of people, including his friends who can’t seem to catch on to his cunning ways. This story was adapted from the original, “The Magic Island”, written in 1929 by W.B. Seabrook
This book is just pure fun. The pictures are gorgeous, simply drawn but full of vibrant colors. Malese tricks his neighbors into giving him everything from shoes to rum for a cake. The end up throwing him in jail for a month, but of course Malese is pretty sly. By the end, not only is he out of jail, but his neighbors are fixing up his house for him—for free of course.
At first I thought it’s kind of a shame that Malese never learns not to trick his friends and neighbors, but this is a traditional trickster story and a trickster is always a trickster. On top of that, I feel like Malese’ friends and neighbors do love him, in spite of how he treats them. I like to think of them as more amused than angry in the end.
I can see why kids would really enjoy the story. It’s full of laughs and I know I got a kick out of Malese’ antics, I assume they would too. Amber did when whe was younger. It can be read aloud in about 10 minutes, which is a good length.
Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.