Lousy Rotten Stinkin' Grapes

by Margie Palatini
illustrated by Barry Moser

Margie Palatini's Lousy Rotten Stinkin' Grapes
Illustrated by Barry Moser

Children's book review by Suzanne Holland

Ages 4-8

There are stories, and then there are STORIES. Stories are fun little books, good for waiting at the doctor’s office or a quick bedtime read. They’re easy to read and easy to digest. Nice and light, but not particularly memorable; sort of the vanilla ice cream of the literary world.

STORIES are the ones that survive re-telling after re-telling. They have quirky and unforgettable characters, lively pacing and can be humorous or sad. Either way, these are the books that endure.

Lousy Rotten Stinkin’ Grapes, by Margie Palatini, is such a STORY. It’s based on the ancient Aesop’s fable of The Fox and the Grapes, but with a decidedly contemporary sensibility.

(Webmaster's note: Follow the link to read both the original Aesop version of The Fox and the Grapes, as well as a centuries-old poetic spin on it.)

The sly and oh so brilliant fox devises myriad ways to reach the tantalizing grapes. His plans are detailed to the nth degree, and Barry Moser’s drawing of the plans is sure to delight any adult reader. (The plans are labeled Bravo, Delta, and Echo. Obviously, this is a maneuver crafted with military precision.) Crafty Fox enlists the help of several animals: a hapless Bear, chattering Beaver, shy Possum, and a practical Porcupine. Despite the elaborate instructions, Fox always falls just a little bit out of reach.

Review - Lousy Rotten Stinkin' Grapes

This is a book which begs to be read with theatrical flourishes. Each of the animals presents a definite personality. It is impossible to read Fox’s patronizing words - “Beaver, Beaver, Beaver, my dentally challenged chum. …Leave all that thinking to me. After all, I’m the fox. Sly. Clever. Smart. I know how to get grapes” - without adopting that exact superior tone. Bear stammers with a well meaning but none too bright voice, and the others are just as animated. Moser’s illustrations perfectly capture the exasperated expressions, and the final page is a delight, with Fox stomping off in a huff.

Children readily understand the expression “sour grapes” after listening to this hilarious story, and it’s fun to ask them how they would have tried to reach the grapes. It is possible that some parents might object to the adjectives lousy, rotten or stinking, but I think children understand the language in the context of the frustrated and boorish fox.

Lousy Rotten Stinkin' Grapes by Margie Palatini is a terrific STORY, and one that would make Aesop proud!

Read more of Suzanne's reviews.

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