Jabuti the Tortoise

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Paperback
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With its shocking-pink jacket and swirls of brilliant designs, McDermott's retelling of this rain forest tale is visually arresting but narratively a bit colorless. The reputed trickster Jabuti gets his comeuppance when a jealous Vulture offers to fly the tortoise and his flute to the King of Heaven's festival of song, then wickedly drops his passenger down from the skies. The King of Heaven chastises the vulture, and the birds who put Jabuti's smooth shell back together again gain new feathers as their reward. Though Jabuti's shell is 'cracked and patched', his 'song is sweet'. Oddly, Jabuti doesn't possess a trickster's lively intelligence or cleverness, and the story's plot is resolved by the God of Heaven's intervention rather than by the protagonist's cunning. The story begins with the animals that Jabuti has tricked, but they all disappear immediately in favor of a pourquoi tale about how the tortoise got the cracks on his shell. McDermott's illustrations, on the other hand, vibrate with electric colors and patterns. Jabuti's huge eyes and geometric smile, and the interior, brightly colored birds are startling when silhouetted against the pink sky. This title is suitable for ages 4-8.