Jabutí the Tortoise: A Trickster Tale from the Amazon

Of all the animals in the rain forest, Jabutí was the favorite. His shell was smooth and shiny, and the songs he played on his flute were sweet.
But his music was a reminder, too, of the mischievous pranks Jabutí sometimes played. His song reminded Tapir of being tricked, Jaguar of being fooled, and time and again it reminded Vulture that he had no song at all. When a concert takes place in heaven, Vulture offers to fly Jabutí there . . . all the while plotting a trick of his own.
Gerald McDermott makes myths new again for readers of all ages, using language as vibrant and colorful as his bold illustrations. Jabutí is an unusual tale of a trickster’s fall from grace, and of how creation can sometimes come from chaos.
Another installment in Gerald McDermott’s wise and whimsical trickster series, Jabutí the Tortoise tells the tale of the Amazon jungle’s shiny-shelled mischief-maker. Although Jabutí doesn’t come across as the most clever trickster around in this particular retelling (he’s duped by that crabby old Vulture and ends up getting bailed out by the King of Heaven), the colorful pipe-player and his songs are clearly well loved. Well, by everybody but his victims, that is: “Jaguar could remember when Jabutí tricked him into chasing his own tail,” and “Tapir could remember when Jabutí tricked him into a tug-of-war with Whale.” But we do get to learn how Tortoise’s shell became cracked, and why Toucan, Macaw, and Hummingbird boast such brilliant colors.

Not the most notable entry in this region-by-region series, but beautiful and boldly colored nonetheless. Kids who aren’t immediately hooked by Jabutí’s story will likely still get drawn in by McDermott’s vibrant colors and straightforward compositions of simply shaped jungle creatures set against a bright pink dawn. (Ages 4 to 8) Paul Hughes

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