Saturday, June 05, 2010

Losing El Lobo: The Three Little Tamales by Eric Kimmel

One day three little tamales saw a tortilla rolling by. "Where are you going" they asked.

"I'm running away," the tortilla told them, "If I stay here, someone's going to eat me. You'll be eaten, too. You'd better run."

"We don't want to be eaten," the three little tamales said. They jumped out the window and ran down the road before anyone knew they were gone."

You probably think you know where this one is going, right? The proprietors of the taqueria are going to give chase, joined by assorted hungry farmers and school children, until the little tamales take a trip across el rio on the back of a tricky fox and become his own tasty tamale treat. Pero, NO!

Eric Kimmel refuses to follow the familiar Gingerbread Boy scenario in his latest folktale adaptation. Instead, in un momento we find ourselves in another famous format. The three tamales find their own new homes--the first in a house built of prairie sagebrush, the second in an elegant hut of rustling cornstalks, and the third and most provident little tamale continues on until she reaches a grove of saguaro cactus.
"Cactus will make a strong house. The thorns will protect me," the third little tamale said.

She slept soundly that night, protected by cactus.

And by now kids listening and reading this one will be picking up this another familiar plot line and they will know that when they turn the next page, there is going to be a hungry wolf in the picture.

And it seems El Lobo has already learned his lines as well...
"Senora Tamale,
por favor,

I want to come in,
so open the door.

I'll huff and puff
like a Texas tornado
and blow your casita
from here to Laredo."

Of, course, the frightened tamale takes off for the shelter of her brother's cornstalk crib, where the huff-and-puff scenario is repeated. And then, at last, El Lobo arrives, hassled and still hungry before the cactus castle of the third little tamale and repeats his rude request, with a similar response.
"Senor Lobo, muy guapo,
I'm sorry to say,
I won't let you in,
so please go away."

As you might predict, the encounter escalates when Senor Lobo, unable to blow down the cactus casita, leaps to the roof and with a loud "AY! AY! AY!" as his paws are pierced by the thorns, delivers his ultimatum and starts down the chimney-- landing (you guessed it) right in a conveniently provided pot of boiling water.

"Let me out!, Senor Lobo howled.

"No, we can't," the three little tamales replied. "We're cooking wolf tamales for dinner!"

I don't want to be a tamale!" Senor Lobo yelled.

Of course, El Lobo finds he has a pressing engagement elsewhere and is soon out of sight and seen no more by the tres tamales, who are now free to have a fiesta with all the tortillas in town in attendance!

Eric Kimmel, whose wonderful way with a folktale goes way back to his top-selling Anansi and the Moss-covered Rock, uses the southwestern scene to add a taste of salsa to this time-proven tale. In his latest Three Little Tamales, (Marshall Cavendish, 2009) Kimmel passes on the porkers in the original tale and picks a picaresque parody set, as in his earlier The Runaway Tortilla, at a Texas taqueria. Kids will pick right up on the compare-and-contrast variations, and aided by Valeria Docampo's spicy illustrations, will soon be repeating the refrain right along with the narrator in this made-to-be-read-aloud version of an old favorite con mucho gusto!

An introductory glossary with pronunciation guide makes the occasional light use of Spanish in Kimmel's tasty text easily understandable for the reader.

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