Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Helena has a favourite book.

As if it suddenly occurs to her, a smile spreads across her face and she repeats, "Patate. Pata... Patate." She scrambles for her copy of La grosse patate, by Aubrey Davis.

We received this book as gift. It is the French translation of the English text, The Enormous Potato.

This is a retelling of an old folktale, The Great Big Enormous Turnip, credited to Alexei Tolstoy.

One by one, reinforcements are called in to help yank the potato from the ground. This repetitive quality is no doubt the heart of its appeal to Helena.

Amazon identifies the reading level as ages 4 to 8, though I can't see enjoying reading this book so much as being read to from it (like Helena, as a 20-month-old).

Although Helena tolerates my strange French accent, she seems to understand that this books calls out for Papa's expertise. It sounds so natural in French — patate! patapouf! popote! — I can't imagine the English version having the same grab.

The pages are bright yellow. I don't particularly like the illustrations by Dušan Petričić, but I can appreciate how others might attribute to them a certain charm. In fact, I find it very annoying that the focal point of the illustrations is in the fold of the two-page spread, though perhaps this is a deliberate trick to physically draw young noses into the book.

Neither does Helena care for the pictures. But she likes to hear the story told. At least the first 20 pages or so (about two-thirds) — to about where the potato pops out — after which invariably she wanders off to explore much more interesting things.

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