This picture book, illustrated by Doug Kennedy and originally published by Hyperion in 2000, has been re-released by Pelican Publishing this September. Robert San Souci has a ton of stories in and around the children’s book world and he often brings his pen down the bayou to concentrate on south Louisiana culture in his subject matter. His stories are staples in our libraries locally.
Six Foolish Fishermen is an example of a “Noodlehead” story. These stories appear in all types of literary traditions and are probably most well known as the “Foolish Jack” stories. In a noodlehead story, the main characters seem to lack even a modicum of common sense yet they somehow manage to come out on top. The noodlehead story is not written to demean any particular person, rather, it allows us to laugh at ourselves and the weaknesses we all share.
San Souci’s version (a take on “The Seven Foolish Fishermen” folktale) is ripe with Cajun dialect, vocabulary, and altered sentence structure – which may turn some readers off – but it provides a good opening into discussion of the Cajun culture. The six fishermen run into several predicaments they try to solve in the most absurd ways, until Henriette comes along and straightens them all out. It is laugh out loud funny.
San Souci thanks renown New Orleans storyteller Coleen Salley (who passed away in 2008) in his dedication. She wrote a great set of noodlehead stories based on her character Epossumondus – if you are unfamiliar with them, they are well worth checking out. Epossumondus himself is based on a very old New Orleans character called Epaminondus. The original story was quite racist but Salley turned the main character into a possum, which allowed a new generation to enjoy the spirit of the story without any demeaning racial overtones.
And that’s how it goes with folklore – and literature in general – almost every story has its base in a story that preceded it. San Souci’s great skill is finding these old stories and recrafting them for a new generation. He does it nicely in The Six Foolish Fishermen.
I’ll be giving my copy away to one lucky person. Leave a comment on this post by October 17th and you’ll be included in my random drawing. If this is your first comment to my blog, the comment will not post until I approve it. And if you like the noodlehead story concept, you really should check out Coleen Salley’s Epossumondus books for noodleheads with a south Louisiana flair.
Genres: Elementary, Middle School, Cajun Tales, Folk tales.
Things to like about this book: This story can be used to go so many places in the curriculum – math lessons, cultural geography, literature studies, writing activities – to name a few. And, it’s goofy funny, so kids will like it.
Audience: Early elementary through middle school for literature study of the noodlehead story.
Reviewed from: Hardcover provided by publisher.