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'One Potato, Two Potato'          Send a link to a friend

[February 28, 2007]  "One Potato, Two Potato," by Cynthia DeFelice, pictures by Andrea U'Ren. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006, 30 pages, ages 4-8

Review by
Louella Moreland

Cynthia DeFelice has created an interesting twist on an old folk tale in her new book, "One Potato, Two Potato." If it were a recipe, it might read as follows: Take one old tale from China, knead in thought-provoking illustrations, spice with the flavor of Ireland, and add one part old woman to one part old man. Stir in an old iron pot, sprinkling the mixture with humor. Stir in a mildly stated lesson on happiness. Serve well-done.

Mr. and Mrs. O'Grady, a very poor old couple, are quite content with their lives except for one thing. Is it more food? Is it more money? I won't spoil the ending by giving it away!

One day, as Mr. O'Grady digs up their last potato, he discovers an old black pot that reproduces whatever is put inside. What I enjoyed most about this story is the contentment this couple experienced with the little they had. They were unconcerned that the blanket or coat had holes. They only placed enough candles or food in the pot for what was needed. Greed was an emotion that seems foreign to this couple. What a refreshing element this adds! Even the ending of the tale promotes this attitude. Parents might find this book a valuable tool in teaching their children the concepts of humility and generosity.

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Andrea U'Ren complements this unusual story with pen and gouache illustrations that make this book a particular treasure. Pictures that are as simple and sparse as the lives of the characters echo the message DeFelice has woven in her text. A broken vase of red flowers on the windowsill, potatoes scattered across the cottage floor and Mr. O'Grady upside down inside the pot entice the reader into the environment of the story.

DeFelice ends her story with a "happily ever after," of course. We, as readers, are also "beside ourselves with joy" with this simple, heartwarming tale. Don't miss it!

Whether reading the original version, a retold version or one from a different character perspective, folk tales and fairy tales are basic building tools in a child's literary background. Generations of people have shared these stories with children and grandchildren as a form of teaching values or ideas. Some stories were even used to explain their view of how the world worked before science was advanced enough to provide those answers. They all make marvelous discussion-starters for families, since that was their original purpose.

To find and share this book or other folk tales, come visit us at the Lincoln Public Library, 725 Pekin St. We will be happy to help you select a book that meets your needs or desires.

[Text from file received from Louella Moreland, Lincoln Public Library District]

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