Review of Somewhere in the Bayou

Somewhere in the Bayou Somewhere in the Bayou
by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey; illus. by the authors
Preschool, Primary    Norton    56 pp.    g
3/22    978-1-324-01593-2    $17.95

The Pumphrey brothers employ understated storytelling, wry humor, and skillful cartooning throughout this entertaining original fable. The premise is simple. Four bayou critters (an opossum, a squirrel, a rabbit, and a mouse) are attempting to cross a river when they happen upon a mysterious green tail. The opossum, squirrel, and rabbit each makes a different, uninformed assumption about the tail (respectively declaring it “sneaky,” “scary,” and “mean”), but all three share the same fate: a scaly “SMACK” into the river. Only the mouse seeks out more information, discovering that the tail is tied to a log. Evoking heroic mice from folklore, the mouse frees the stranger (unsurprisingly revealed to be an alligator) with a few nibbles. An amusing tension builds when the alligator offers the mouse a ride across the river, leading to the conclusion: “I think we’ve become friends. And friends don’t eat friends. Besides…I ate some strangers earlier.” Pitch-perfect pacing develops a repetitive rhythm reminiscent of oral storytelling, while, in the illustrations, subtle variations in body language, eye position, and panel size/shape provide meaningful subtext. The earthy palette and block-print imagery are graphically grounded, while conveying plenty of textural nuance and depth through subtle layering. Both a cautionary tale and a thrilling romp, this surefire read-aloud will be embraced especially by fans of Klassen’s celebrated hat trilogy.

From the July/August 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Patrick Gall
Patrick Gall works as a librarian for children in preschool through eighth grade at the Catherine Cook School in Chicago.

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