________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 4 . . . . October 10, 2008


Don’t Eat That! (Easy-to-Read Spooky Tales).

Veronika Martenova Charles. Illustrated by David Parkins.
Toronto, ON: Tundra, 2008.
56 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-857-6.

Subject Headings:
Horror tales, Canadian (English).
Children’s stories, Canadian (English).

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Deborah Mervold.

*** /4


“Leon!” shouted Marcos.
“You’re not listening. What are you doing?” he asked.
Leon was standing under the tree squishing the fallen cherries with his foot.
“Look! The cherries are moving!” Leon called.
We went to take a look. Leon was right.
The cherries were moving because they were full of worms. The worms were fat and white and they wiggled all around. (From “In the Garden.”)

Three friends, Leon, Marcus and “I” get together. Before they can play, “I” has to mow the grass, but his mother has told him not to eat the cherries. She doesn’t explain why. When the boys speculate on why, they each tell a story which combines the supernatural and eating items which may not be safe. Leon thinks that maybe they will shrink into babies, and he tells a story called “The Fig Tree.” Daku, a young boy and the main character, is told by his grandmother never to eat figs because there would be a creature living in the tree which would swallow him whole and spit him out over and over, each time making him smaller. Daku is hunting with his friends when they see a fig tree. Daku is sure that his grandmother has told him the story just to scare him so that he will obey. Daku decides to eat the figs, and the creature swallows him whole. He then remembers that his grandmother also says that the creature will only eat people who are alive so Daku lies very still and pretends to be dead. The creature returns to the tree, and Daku returns home where his grandmother knows that he has eaten figs because he is smaller than before. The boys speculate whether or not Daku will have to return to kindergarten because he is smaller.

   The second story, told by the “I” character, speculates that, if they eat the cherries, they will turn into parrots or donkeys. The story is called “The Storm.” Two brothers, Avi and Ben, are caught outside in a terrible storm when they are travelling to visit their aunt in a nearby village. They spot a small cottage by the road. There are two barking dogs in the doorway. Two women come to the door and invite the boys in for some food. Because the women appear to be kind, the boys agree. When the women are fixing the food, Avi and Ben notice that one of the women is stirring a hot pot of soup with her fingers and the other is taking bread out of the oven with her bare hands. Realizing that the women must be witches, they attempt to leave. The dogs bar their way so they agree to stay the night but say they will eat in the morning. Through the night, the dogs are sent out to bring in four donkeys. The donkeys turn into men who carry water and cut wood. In the morning, after eating food, the men are turned back into donkeys and returned to the barn. The boys agree to take the bread and leave with the dogs following them. They throw the bread to the dogs that then turn into donkeys. The boys hurry to their aunt’s house and return home by a different path.

   Marcos wonders if the witches had a potion that they put in the food and then speculates that they were told not to eat the cherries because the mom was going to make cherry pancakes. He then tells a story, “Uncle Wolf,” which is about a girl, Bella, who was told not to eat pancakes. Bella and her mother are so poor that they don’t even have a frying pan. The mother sends Bella to Uncle Wolf to borrow his frying pan. He agrees if Bella will bring back the skillet filled with pancakes. The mother makes two piles of pancakes, one for Bella and one for Uncle Wolf. After Bella eats her pancakes, she takes the rest of the pancakes and the frying pan back to Uncle Wolf with her mother’s instructions not to eat any of the pancakes. The pancakes smell so good that she eats one and then another and soon they are gone. Bella scrapes up some mud and flattens it into the shape of a pancake. When the wolf takes a bite, he spits it out and yells that tonight he will punish Bella. Bella runs home and tells her mother who closes the door and windows but forgets about the chimney. When the wolf arrives, he says that he is outside, then on the roof, then in the chimney, then in her room and then by her bed when the story ends.

   The story continues back in the garden with the three boys. Leon has not been listening because he is looking at the cherries which have fallen on the ground and appear to be moving. They see that the cherries are full of worms. Marcus puts his hand over his mouth because he hasn’t listened to the mother’s advice and has eaten some cherries. The mother admits that she should have told the boys why they shouldn’t eat the cherries and invites the boys inside for a snack. The boys say that they are no longer hungry.

   The book concludes with the author’s suggestion that the reader finish the Uncle Wolf story by thinking about what could happen next and how Bella could save herself and make things right.

   The book is divided into the two sections in the garden and the three tales that the boys tell. In between each story, the boys speculate on possible reasons why they should not eat the cherries. The text is short sentences filled with dialogue suitable for beginning readers. The type is large and double spaced making it easy to read. The spookiness of the material would appeal to readers who like to be scared, but it is appropriate for the recommended age group. The illustrations add to the content as the black and white drawings fit with what is happening in the story. The cover also adds to the effect as the three boys look like they have eaten something disagreeable, and there is a red creature filling the background of the cover.

   At the end of the book, the author writes that many folktales warn about not eating fruit. “The Fig Tree” has been inspired by an Australian legend, “The Storm” from Eastern Europe, and “Uncle Wolf” from an Italian folktale. Charles also explains that the story of the wormy cherries is something she remembers from her own childhood.

   Don’t Eat That! would be suitable for readers who enjoy scary stories, legends or adventure. Readers will also enjoy finishing the one story. It would be suitable for use in classrooms and excellent for public and personal libraries. It would be a good choice to read aloud or for students to read alone.


Deborah Mervold is an educator from Shellbrook, SK, now doing faculty training and program development at Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.