Retold by Aubrey Davis. Illustrated by Alan and Lea Daniel.
Preschool - grade 2 / Ages 3 - 7.
Now, under the bridge there lived a hairy, smelly bear.Sody Salleratus is a book written by a storyteller - it is simple enough for its listeners to "read aloud" and dramatic enough to always make the telling exciting. Aubrey Davis (who also wrote Bone Button Borscht) has been telling stories to children for many years. He is an active member of the Storytellers School of Toronto and the College of Storytellers in London, England. He has also been a teacher for the past twenty years, a role that has led him to develop an oral language program for students with special needs. "It's a marvellous experience," Davis says, "to watch a student who can't read or speak begin to pick up on the rhythm of the story and the sounds - and begin to tell the story with me!"
"GRRR!" growled the bear. "Who's that walking on my bridge?"
"It's me - Boy. Me and my Sody Salleratus."
"RAWR!" roared the bear. "I'm going to eat you and your Sody Salleratus!"
And he did.
Sody Salleratus is an old folk tale rendered in marvellous fashion here. The story begins with "Boy" who is sent by "Old Woman" to purchase some Sody Salleratus (Saleratus is a 19th-century American word for baking soda) for baking biscuits. Boy never returns, so Old Woman sends "Girl" to fetch him. "Old Man" is then sent to get the girl, and finally Old Woman goes herself to find all of them. When everyone has disappeared, the house squirrel sets out to learn what has happened. Without giving the ending away, it involves a huge hungry bear, and wit prevails over weight in the ensuing battle.
Davis has a delightful levity in his style. For example, when Girl sets out down the road, she goes "a skippity-skip, skippity skip;" when Old Man does the same, he goes "a crickity-crack, crickity-crack." The repetitive narrative, with its sing-song quality and start-and-stop rhythm, will encourage listeners, even non-readers, to "read along." Sody Salleratus is perfect for at-home or in-class, group or individual readings. The repetition and limited vocabulary make it ideal for beginning readers but it can be enjoyed by all ages. The many voices (Bear, Old Woman, Squirrel, etc.) make for dramatic storytelling. Combined with the even balance and pacing of the story, this book is fun and easy to read aloud effectively.
The illustration is by Alan and Lea Daniel whose efforts can be seen in many other children's books, including Good Families Don't (Doubleday, 1990), Big David, Little David (Doubleday, 1995), and the Bunnicula books. These acrylic and pencil images in warm and cheerful colours possess a caricature-like style that is homespun and folksy in effect. The characters are knobby-kneed, big-toed and lovable in their exaggeration; the pages are filled with humorous detail that will entertain readers of any age.
In Sody Salleratus, illustration and narrative complement each other perfectly, and in such a way that non-readers who are familiar with the story will be able to "read" the book.
Leslie Millar is a mother and substitute teacher.
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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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