Phillis Gershator







About me



Sweet fig banana jacket


illustrated by Fritz Millevoix

Whitman,  1996

*CLASP Américas Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature, commended title

From the catalog:
his island home in the Caribbean, Soto has planted a fig banana. First the leaves unfurl: then a purple flower hangs down, and at last the little bananas appear. Soto's mother cuts them down at just the right moment––before the tree rat and the thrushee can eat them!
     And what will happen to these sweet bananas? Soto's mother wants to sell them in Market Square, where she and Soto go every week. But these are Soto's bananas, and he has plans to give them to three special friends.
     Phillis Gershator's lively island tale is accompanied by Fritz Millevoix's bright, primitive paintings. The author lives on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. The illustrator, born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, now lives in Illinois.

A little about the book:

     In St. Thomas, I worked as school librarian at an elementary school near Market Square. I would see one of the students hanging out after school with his mother. She was a market lady who sold lottery tickets, fruit, and candies from a jar. That scene planted the seed for this story. I also had the joyful experience of watching banana plants grow in our yard. Unfortunately, right before this book came out, the islands were hit by a gigantic hurricane named Marilyn. The storm knocked down all of our banana plants––and blew our roof away, too. But that story has a happy ending. After we got a new roof, we planted new bananas, sweet fig bananas, our favorite kind.

A recipe:     

Everybody says an apple a day keeps the doctor away. So does a banana! What a beautiful and healthy fruit! Ripe bananas are good raw, baked, dried, in cakes, cookies, muffins, sandwiches (peanut butter, raisins, and banana, yum).

If you end up with too many bananas, try drinking them:

(a "smoothie" or milkshake)

1 cup low fat milk
1/3 to 1/2 cup banana
dash vanilla
dash cinnamon

Blend in blender until smooth.

     If you happen to have ripe papaya, try this with papaya instead of banana, and add 1 teaspoon sugar. After it’s blended, papaya lechosa gets thicker and thicker. If it sits for awhile, it gets too thick to drink! (But you can eat it with a spoon, like custard.) A papaya and banana combo is best of all.

     If you still have too many bananas, you can always peel and freeze them.
Cut-up frozen bananas work fine when you make lechosa.

From the reviews:

“Gershator pens a sweet, sweet tale....” Kirkus"

When Soto's banana shoot grows into a strong, tall plant, the fruit soon follows, and he and his mother sell them at market. Thought they sell well, enough remain that Soto is able to repay the kindness of the hat man, the fraico man, and the librarian with three "hands" of bananas. The Caribbean island comes to life through the lively cadence of the text and vibrant colors of the primitive art." Recommended, The Horn Book Guide

“With its rhythmic cadences, dialect, and exotic details, this story offers a pleasant slice of island life.” School Library Journal

“Both story and art are alive with the flavor of the islands....the pictures shimmer with the azure blues of sea and sky, the verdant greens of the trees, and the brilliant oranges, purples, and roses of the flowers. No matter where they live, children will understand Soto and feel close to him.” Booklist

"....Soto's tending of the banana plant serves as a metaphor for the type of tending that often occurs for Caribbean children; his concern over his plant mimics the concern the adults show him. In Soto's case the fruit borne is his learning how to read and how to give back to his community. Millevoix's vibrant primitive-style paintings work well in depicting the lush Caribbean setting...." MultiCultural Review

"...suitable for reading to young children and for second and third graders to read for themselves. Conversation is in island creole, and "local knowledge" both social and botanical will add to youngsters' enjoyment of the story. Subtle teaching points emerge––the payoff for patience and Soto's returning of a kindness to several people who go out of their way to be nice to him....a delightful book...." The Island Trader, St. Thomas