Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale, by Marjuan Canady (Illustrated by Nabeeh Bilal)

Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale is an "almost" book. I can see where the author and illustrator were going with it, but it didn't quite get there. 

The basic story is that a boy named Winston is eating callaloo, his favourite Caribbean dish, while sitting in his apartment in New York City, when he is suddenly transported to the island of Tobago. And that's when the book gets a little scary. Winston encounters a series of frightening demons and monsters before finally returning home to his kitchen. Upon his return he apparently has learned the value of eating in moderation. Was that what he was supposed to be learning? I guess so. It wasn't all that clear.

I think the idea behind this story (which is based on a play) is that readers are supposed to feel they are transported to another land along with Winston (sort of like Where the Wild Things Are), or that a regular kitchen can have the power of transformation (like Jonathan Cleaned Up and Then He Heard a Sound), but also that we're supposed to learn a lot about the Caribbean islands (like The Drummer Boy of John John). The problem is that the drawings are simple and unsophisticated enough to suggest the book is for very young children, but then the monsters are pretty scary. So the overall message seems to be, "If you eat Caribbean food you may end up in Tobago, which is the scariest place on the planet." I can't help but feel the author intended the book to have the OPPOSITE message. 

Magda's Take:

Magda didn't actually finish this one. We started to read it after she'd had a big lunch and just before she was supposed to take a nap. When she saw that it was about a boy eating a lot of food she declared that she was too full and too sleepy to read this right now. I finished it on my own while she was napping and I'm glad I did because those monster drawings would have definitely scared the crap out of her. (Keep reading to see a couple of the illustrations)

Book Details:
Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale
by Marjuan Canady
Illustrated by Nabeeh Bilal
Published by Sepia Works
Publication Date: November 18, 2013
View on Amazon

Source: NetGalley


Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale Audio Book

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