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Czernecki, Stefan and Timothy Rhodes
Illustrated by Stefan Czernecki Winnipeg, Hyperion Press, 1992. 40pp, cloth, $18.95, ISBN 0-929534-84-8. CIP

Kindergarten to Grade 3/Ages 5 to 8

Reviewed by Marion Scott

Volume 20 Number 5
1992 October

This delightful picture-book draws on Latin American art and folklore for its distinctive look and character.

Set in a Guatemalan village, it tells the story of Beto, a kind-hearted baker, and Zafiro, a beggar for whom Beto always saves his crusts. Unlike Beto, the villagers want only to be rid of Zafiro, and as festival time approaches, they force him to leave. While Zafiro is bidding Beto goodbye, one of Zafiro's bitter tears falls in the baking water. The result Beto can no longer make bread. The dough refuses to rise. All finally ends well when Beto persuades the villagers to invite Zafiro back to the village. The mystery is solved, the villagers feast again on Beta's wonderful bread, and Zafiro is given a place of honour in the festival procession.

This is an original, rather than a traditional, story. But the simple, direct language and themes give it the feel and resonance of a folk-tale. The narrative is well paced, and the central event and image the bread that will not rise captures the imagination. The illustrations, executed in bright almost neon colours and a flat, naive style, are a handsome complement. Close attention has been paid to decorative detail. This is based on Latin American art motifs and richly reflects the book's setting. The one problem with the book's look is the design.

The text has not been centered. All print is confined to the upper half of the page, leaving the bottom portion blank.

Czernicki and Rhodes have collaborated before, most notably on Nina's Treasures. This title, like Nina, continues their interest and success in writing original stories based on folklore themes. The Sleeping Bread is their most polished work to date and stems from a long-time interest in Latin American culture and many trips to Latin America.

This is an appealing, attractively produced book, suited to an age five- to eight-year-old audience, and its multicultural theme makes it particularly pertinent for library collections today.

I would recommend it for purchase by both school and public libraries.

Marion Scott is a children's librarian at Pape / Danforth Branch, Toronto Public Library, in Toronto, Ontario

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