________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 18 . . . . May 11, 2001

cover The Trial of the Stone: A Folktale.

Richardo Keens-Douglas, Reteller. Illustrated by Stephane Jorisch.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2000.
32 pp., pbk. & cl., $7.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55037-646-2 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55037-647-0 (cl.).

Preschool - grade 1 / Ages 3 - 6.

Review by Alison Mews.

**** /4


"Quiet in the court," said the Chief, and he looked serious. "Stone, what village are you from?" he asked.
The stone did not reply, but a woman in the crowd stuffed her scarf into her mouth to muffle her giggles.
"Stone, who are your parents?" the Chief demanded next.
When the stone remained silent once again, the Chief instructed the clerk to record that the stone showed contempt of court and would be punished. The stone showed no emotion, but at this the crowd burst out laughing. The man in the red shirt toppled right over, he was so amused.
The Chief stood up and shouted to the clerk, "Enter in the records that upon the judgement the crowd raised a huge commotion in disrespect of the court," and right then and there he fined each spectator one penny. The Constable collected the coins and the Chief turned them over to the delighted Matt, who was soon on his way to his grandfather's village, having first enjoyed a fine breakfast.
As for the stone, the man in the red shirt was ordered to take it back to the side of the road all by himself.
image Based on a folktale found throughout Asia and South America, this absurd tale will amuse and delight children of all ages. Young Matt sets out on an overnight trip to his grandfather's, and, when night falls, he places his money beneath a stone for safekeeping. His cries on discovering the money gone next morning rouse the nearby villagers. The Chief, to the amazement of all, places the stone on trial. Despite its steadfast refusal to provide answers, the stone's silence is the means by which Matt's misfortune is reversed and the sly thief gets his just reward.

      Stephane Jorisch's translucent watercolour and gouache illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to this farcical tale. Using body language and a minimum of facial features, he adroitly expresses the pomposity of the village chief imperiously demanding answers from a stone; the nonchalance of the lounging thief; the helpless mirth of the villagers during the trial; and their disgruntled compliance to paying the fine at its conclusion. All these responses serve to amplify the understated humour of the text.

      A worthy addition to any folktale collection, this comic collaboration begs to be shared with children, whose inherent sense of justice will be deliciously vindicated.

Highly Recommended.

Alison Mews is the Head of the Curriculum Materials Centre, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of NF, St. John's, NF.

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ISSN 1201-9364