Author: Robert D. San Souci
Illustrator: Jerry Pinkney
Age Group: 4-7
Synopsis: A sweet and thoughtful girl helps an old woman in the woods and discovers many things she never thought possible.
The Low Down:
I have a weakness for folk tales. I may have mentioned it before but I really just love them. When I was little, I used to watch the Tall Tales and Legends shows about John Henry, Pecos Bill, Annie Oakley, and others. The Talking Eggs, by Robert D. San Souci only helped fan that fire. We had this story growing up and I always loved the magical house of the old woman. Even now sometimes walking through the woods I hope to stumble across her, if only to see the hares dressed in fine clothes dancing to fiddles under the moonlight.
The story is fairly typical folktale, emulating a Cinderella-like storyline. Blanche is the youngest daughter and is made to do all the work around her swamp house for her mother and older sister, Rose. She works all day long, while her mother and sister sit on the porch and talk about how they should be fine ladies and go to the city. It is only when Blanche helps an old woman get water from the well and is then punished for it severely by her mother and sister, that she runs away. She rediscovers the old woman, who says that Blanche can stay with her. Though it’s hard, Blanche listens to everything the old woman says and as a reward Blanche watches the men and lady rabbits play music and dance in the moonlight. She’s also given the opportunity to go meet the talking eggs and take some away with her. She takes the plain ones who say, “Take me!” and even though the jeweled eggs are beautiful, she listens when they say, “Don’t take me!” As she’s going home, she follows the old woman’s instructions and tosses the eggs over her shoulder. When they break, they reveal precious metals, jewels, dresses, and even a horse and buggy. Blanche’s mother then sends out her sister to find the old woman so they can get more treasure for themselves. Rose does the opposite of everything the old woman tells her and takes as many jeweled eggs as she can carry. When these crack open, there are hornets, snakes, wolves, and all manner of terrible creatures inside. It’s only when Rose and her mother finally make it home that they realize that Blanche has left for good and taken all her fine things with her.
Jerry Pinkney does an incredible job bringing it all to life and making each turn of the page increase the readers’ desire to follow Blanche and the old woman farther into the woods. Bringing to life the strange and incredible wonders that Blanche encounters must have been a difficult job but Pinkney has succeeded in making the pictures jump off the pages. Or at least in making me wish that the pictures would jump off the pages. Together Pinkney and San Souci have created a timeless tale that I’m pleased to be able to share with Bug and that I hope he will share with his children when or if he does have them.
- With phrases like: “sharper than forty crickets,” “putting on airs,” and “Hush, child,” this story begs to be told with a southern accent.
I need more!
Robert D. San Souci was a master of folk tales and legends. He seems to have been ridicously lucky in his pairings especially with Jerry Pinkney, David Shannon, Jamichael Henterly, and others. Our other favorites of his include Young Guinevere and Nicholas Pipe. For a list of his works please check out his Google page or Wikipedia.
Jerry Pinkney has illustrated so many books it’s difficult to count but besides The Talking Eggs, we love his pictures in The Lion & the Mouse, The Tortise & the Hare, and John Henry (another of my favorite tales!). His website is up-to-date and fabulous: http://www.jerrypinkneystudio.com
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