Phillis Gershator







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Tukama jacket

ukama Tootles the Flute
A Tale from the Antilles

illustrated by Synthia Saint James

Orchard Books, 1994

*Bank Street's Best Children's Books, 1994
*BCCB Blue Ribbon Book, 1994
*CCBC Choices, 1994
*Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs   (CLASP)
*Starred review, Kirkus
*Starred review, Hornbook

From the book jacket:

      Tukama, he’s a wild one. Instead of helping his grandmother  carry the coal, fetch water, or dig potatoes, he’s off climbing up and down the dangerous cliffs by the sea, all the while tootling his flute.
    “Where you been, boy?” she asks once Tukama gets home. “Don’t you know a two-headed giant runnin’ about here, loookin’ for wild children to eat?”
     And don’t you know that such a question, even such a possibility, is just enough to start a boy like Tukama off on some mischief?
     Lively words and striking oil paintings show what happens when a young boy is brave before he is wise.

A little about the book:

     My love of folktales often leads me to want to recreate them. Knowing this, my friends Willie Wilson and Karen Bertrand suggested I write to Richard Jackson, who edited their children's book, Up Mountain One Time. I did. And--happy day!--he chose to publish two of my retellings: Tukama Tootles the Flute and The Iroko Man. Tukama includes a mix of traditional rhymes and children's chants, and now "Tukama's song" is available on a CD: This Is the Day! Storysongs & Singalongs.
was the first children’s book illustrated by Synthia Saint James, well known for her bold and gestural paintings, her USPS postage stamp (!), and her jacket design for the bestselling novel Waiting to Exhale.
From the reviews:

“...the story will delight listeners and readers alike with its momentum and action, and Saint James’ oil paintings, with their large geometric forms and bright, predominantly primary colors, add greatly to the tale’s appeal.” Booklist

“...it’s a wonderful read- or tell-aloud, with colloquial dialogue, lost of repetition, and a satisfying symmetry in the way Tukama is lured, step by step, into the giant’s clutches...and then, bit by bit, persuades the giant’s wife to let him out of the bag in which he’s imprisoned....An outstanding introduction to a less well-known folklore.” Kirkus, starred review

“Retold in a flowing, polished style, well suited to oral interpretation....a gift to storytellers....handsome stylized oil paintings....” Horn Book, starred review

“The language is lively and lyrical; children will want to join in on the refrains. The bold and simple oil paintings are striking.” Children’s book Review Service

“Children will recognize elements of such classics as Jack and the Beanstalk  in this atmospheric adaptation....The text pulses with the rhythms of island dialect and is laced with the casual asides of an oral storyteller. Debut illustrator Saint James lays down swaths of bold colors for her abstract representations.” Publishers Weekly