Monday, April 14, 2014

CHUKFI RABBIT'S BIG, BAD BELLYACHE: A TRICKSTER TALE by Greg Rodgers

I smiled as I read Chukfi Rabbit's Big, Bad Bellyache: A Trickster Tale by Choctaw author, Greg Rodgers. Chukfi Rabbit, we learn as the story opens, is lazy. If I was still teaching kindergarten or first grade, I'm have fun saying this line from the first page with my students:
"Chukfi Rabbit is lay-zeeee." 

And I'd be sure to point out that Chukfi is the Choctaw word for rabbit!



In the story, that lazy rabbit doesn't really want to help his friends build a new house, but when he learns that freshly made butter is part of the meal they'll share, he agrees to help (not). Remember--he's lazy. He'll find a way not to do any work AND a way to eat that butter while the others work!

Let's back up, though, and talk about what Rodgers shares before and after the story.

In the author's note on the title page, he lets his readers know that this is a Choctaw story, and that he'll be using Choctaw words in it. He tells us what those words are:
Rabbit - Chukfi
Fox - Chula
Bear - Nita
Turtle - Luksi
Beaver - Kinta
Possum - Shukata
In the "Note to Storytellers and Readers" at the end, he tells us he came to tell this story, and he tells us there's Choctaws in two places (the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and, there's the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians) and that each one has its own government. I love that he uses that word: government. Chukfi Rabbit is a picture book and its audience is obviously young children. They differ in their ability to understanding the idea of nation or nationhood. For those who are ready, definitely take a minute to talk about Native Nations.

The story is delightful to read, and the illustrations by Leslie Stall Widener are terrific. They provide the visual clues that this is a Choctaw story. The clothes the characters wear accurately depict the sorts of items Choctaw's wear, from tops like the one Chukfi wears to the baseball cap that Kinta wears.

Of special note is the blurb on the back from Joy Harjo, author of The Good Luck Cat. She just won a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship, by the way. Of Chukfi Rabbit, she says "This book belongs in every child's library and the libraries of some of us older story-lovers." I agree. If you can, order it from its publisher, Cinco Puntos Press. 

3 comments:

Polly said...

Thanks very much, Debbie, I have ordered it for my library's collection!

Allie said...

I absolutely love Chukfi Rabbit (can't wait to read it to the kids when they're back in September) and have been meaning to ask: Kinta, with the baseball cap, seems to be channeling Tim Tingle (master Choctaw author) to me. Did anyone else feel that way?

Debbie Reese said...

Allie! I bet you're right!