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Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Horned Toad Prince by Jackie Mims Hopkins

Hi everyone!
How are you today?

Still cold I take it?
Well, considering there is suppose to be snow in about 48 of the 50 states here in the US of A (mine NOT included...*grr*), can't say I'm surprised.  This is probably the longest time we've had to use the heater down here, but let's just say I'm glad we have it (heat on = nice and toasty...but not too toasty...I do like my cold weather to a degree).  Anywho, you didn't come to read about the FL weather right now, you came to find out what's cooking in my little corner of the reading world!  Ready?

Time to lighten things up around here and step back into the world of Children's Books...more specifically the storybook or picture book.  The one being featured today takes a new look at an old classic adding a surprise twist that is sure to delight even the finicky readers amongst us (you know who you are...*glare*).  Readers and read-ettes, may I present, today's book of choice.....

illustrated by

Once upon a time, there was a little girl. So sweet and gentle was she that birds would tweet their good mornings and sugar would not melt in her mouth. Once day, a new creature from the world outside greeted her with a hip, a hop...and a croak. My, what an unusual sound for a bird, the girl pondered as she caste her glance around for the source of the offending noise. She looked left. She looked right. She looked up....and finally down. There, at her feet, sat the biggest, ugliest horned toad she had ever seen. In fact....wait wait wait...back up. A "horned toad"? *checks story book* Yep, that's what it says...hmm...what say you to starting this "fairytale" off at the beginning once more, shall we? *ahem*

Once upon a time, in the land of dust and tumbleweeds (huh, well that's new), there lived a young girl (no surprise there). Her name....Reba Jo. Her claim to fame (so to speak)...guitar twanging, singing, and roping....basically she loved the "ing" out of life. One day while out riding her trusty steed, Flash, Reba Jo happened upon something irresistible to a roper at heart....a lone buzzard sitting just across the arroyos. Yes, he would be the perfect target to test her abilities on, but wait....what's an arroyo? seems to me this Spanish word needs translating before we wander into parts unknown partner....*looks up word*....ah ha!

Arroyo means "creek" and in this case is referring to a dry one that her Daddy warned her never to cross for fear of a flash flood. (Think The Fellowship of the Ring when Arwen calls the waters forth to stop the Nazgul from crossing...) But the temptation is too much...she simply MUST do what's in her nature to do....and ooh doggy is she in for a heap of trouble. The next few scenes pass in a blur of lost hats, horned toad assistance, and an attempt to leave unfulfilled a promise made. Silly Reba Jo....have you forgotten? Your Daddy always "a deal is a deal"...and in her neck of the, prairie...that means follow through is a must. What have you gotten yourself into? There seems to be only one way out this cattle call, but the end results may surprise you....

So....suffice it to say that this story plays off the classic The Princess and the Frog; HOWEVER, that is where the similarities end....just on the surface. If we go one step deeper, we find the story made over in location, characters, personalities (gotta love their spunkiness...all of them really), and the actual promise made. What's that? Oh, I know what you're saying...what about the kiss. Am I right? Can't say it doesn't happen (again, reflections of the original are the base story line) but the final outcome will surprise you fully in all ways. Seriously! Even after the final words have been read, there is one more picture that adds a little more Reba Jo-ness before the curtains close.

Speaking of those illustrations, how whimsical are they! Really, that's a big part of what drew me to this story in the first place. I mean, I like a good fairytale redo just as much as the next reader, but the pictures really did it for me here. They have that earthy quality in both color and texture that takes you out of suburbia and places you on the lonesome prairie with the characters. Reba Jo's expressions are priceless as are those of the horned toad both before and after the infamous event...but there was one side character in the group that had me chuckling at first glance that I had to share. He has no lines, yet influences the events greatly. It is the one, the only...buzzard! Just look at him! How can you not like/love/smile or laugh at him? Really wonderful artwork with every turn of the back to that story....

Aside from the creative alternatives used in both the character and plot choices, the author added a learning experience to this charming tale. How so? With the inclusion of some basic Spanish words and phrases on every page! It blends seamlessly into the story and allows you, my amigo, the chance to expand your vocabulary in pequeno steps (that one means "small"). Even better still is something just inside the back cover. It's the grand finale, the whole enchilada, it's...a Spanish-to-English Word List summing up all the new words you've learned along the way while allowing you to revisit their meanings.

Anyway you slice it, this is one picture book that shows you the cake and let's you eat it too....or perhaps it's be more fitting to say you get to see the chili pot full to the brim AND grab yourself a big steaming bowl too. (Okay, now I have a sudden taste for chili....yum!) A great little book for readers of all ages; whether young or simply young at heart, the messages are clear (and fitting). First, be careful what you promise (VERY careful). Second, things aren't always as they seem...and often times it's the things unseen that are the most astounding.

Review copy courtesy of Peachtree Publishers. (THANKS!) For more information on their great catalog of books for all ages, visit their website, check out their blog, or follow along on Twitter (1...2...3). Curious to know more about the author or illustrator? No worries, I was too. Check their respective sites to see their current comings and goings. Last but not'll want to check out the book's website. Why? Because I said so. Just kidding! Really, it has additional information about the story, the author, the illustrator (even a click by click image on how some of the pictures came to life) and loads of fun activities including printable coloring pages, dot-to-dot games, and even a few interactive online gems. Fun for all least that's what I'm going with since I had so much fun over there (hehe).

Muchas gracias for stopping by!
Until next time...adios amigos...and happy reading.


Tales of Whimsy said...

*giggle* I love this cold. But then I've always been the odd Florida girl. Great review.

(Arya) Paige said...

Great review! And I understand your frustration. I'm not getting any snow either. :( I live like an hour above the Florida line, so we rarely ever get any.


Gina said...

Juju: Alright! Another FL girl with a love for cold. ^_^ Enjoy it while it lasts friend...

Arya: Aww...{hugs} I share your lack-of-snow pain. ^_^

Tribute Books said...

Enjoy your status in one of the non-snow states. Wish I could say the same :)

Loved your Frodo/Arwen reference! I just re-watched Fellowship of the Ring a couple of weeks ago.

Alexia561 said...

Enjoyed your review! And loved the picture of the buzzard! Looks like a really cute book.

If you want snow, you can have mine. I'm one of those who doesn't like the cold, and wishes it were Spring already! *shivers*

Gina said...

Tribute Books: Now see that's what most of the snow states are saying...LOL. I suppose we always want what we don't have. Glad you liked the LOTR seemed fitting. Gotta pull out my DVD of it for a re-watch soon too. ^_^

Alexia561: Wasn't he an eyeful? Had to smile when I saw him. OOh! Yes please....I will take your snow... *waits patiently* (Would love to see the UPS persons face when they deliver THAT package...LOL)

The1stdaughter said...

Okay, I'm seriously hungry for a bowl of chili now thank you very much! LOL Sounds really good. :o)

What a fun book! I love the Spanish-to-English option in the back as we've been trying to incorporate that more with the kiddos since my hubby speaks it fluently. I may just have to look into this one.

Excellent review as usual! :o)

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