Sunday, March 07, 2004

Review: "Down the Crawfish Hole" by Wes Thomas

It's an old tradition in children's books. Take a familiar, beloved story and alter it to put it in surroundings and add characters that relate to the local region. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Luckily for Wes Thomas, it works in "Down the Crawfish Hole" ($15.95, Pelican Publishing Co.).

In this book for the preschool set, a young boy named Maurice happens across an interesting blue crawfish that claims to be late for a meeting with the Frog Queen. On the way, the crawfish drops his watch. Intrigued, Maurice picks up the watch and follows the crawfish into a crawfish hole, where he arrives in a strange world populated by talking armadillos and opossum, and a friendly Cajun and his alligator buddy. Oh, and of course, the frogs and their queen.

If it all sounds a little familiar, it should. "Down the Crawfish Hole" is simply a Cajun-ized (and abridged) version of Lewis Carroll's classic "Alice in Wonderland."

Since this book was written for preschoolers, it's very short and moves quite quickly. In fact, too quickly for me, from the adult perspective. It was well enough done that I wanted to see it expanded and see how other elements from Carroll's classic would have translated into a Cajun world.

The drawings in the book are lively and should engage children, and the characters are just as colorful as Carroll's, even if they don't get the same face time as the originals.

Of course, when you're dealing with a classic like "Alice in Wonderland," there's really no way you can improve on it. But for a younger set, who perhaps don't have the reading skills to tackle Carroll's story yet, it will certainly get them interested in the book it's based on.

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