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Zomo the Rabbit


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About the Author

GERALD MCDERMOTT (1941-2012) was an internationally acclaimed author-illustrator of books for children. A graduate of Pratt Institute in New York City and a lifelong artist, he began his career as an animated filmmaker before moving into the creation of children's books based on storytelling traditions from around the world. He was awarded the Caldecott Medal and two Caldecott Honors; his extensive and influential body of work includes six popular picture books focusing on the trickster motif. Devoted to oral tradition and the transformative power of mythology, he was the first Fellow of the Joseph Campbell Foundation and served as a consultant on mythology in education.


K-Gr 3-- McDermott tells the story of Zomo the rabbit, the trickster who originated in Nigeria and who lives on in the lore of the Caribbean and the United States. When the irresponsible black rabbit asks the Sky God for wisdom, he is given three impossible tasks: he must get the scales of Big Fish, the milk of Wild Cow, and the tooth of Leopard. He does all these things and in the end the Sky God rewards him with wisdom, and warns that next time he sees his victims, he had better run fast. This colorful rendition of the story is done with the kind of bold graphics that gave McDermott's early works their immediate popularity. The horizon is low on the page so that there is a great sense of air and space. The bright gold of the sky adds warmth. The illustrations masterfully integrate a variety of styles the artist has used in the past. His characters are more realistically drawn than in his earliest work, but they are adorned with dramatic graphic patterns. It is larger and more visually expansive than McDermott's Anansi the Spider (1972) or The Magic Tree (1973; o.p., both Holt). With its small but triumphant hero clad in a colorful dashiki and a cap, its dazzling design, and its great good humor, this story will be a pleasure to use with children. --Marilyn Iarusso, New York Public Library

This straightforward retelling by the Caldecott Award-winning illustrator of Arrow to the Sun features bold, vibrant shapes and hues. When Zomo (``He is not big. He is not strong. But he is very clever'') beseeches the Sky God for wisdom, he is set three impossible tasks: he must bring back ``the scales of Big Fish in the sea . . . the milk of Wild Cow and the tooth of Leopard.'' The cunning rabbit dupes the three creatures into giving up these prizes, but returns to discover that the joke's on him. His newfound wisdom? To run like mad from the three very angry animals. The tale moves along with the swift concision of a good joke, right down to its satisfying punch line. McDermott's gouache illustrations in brilliant hues of fuchsia, green and orange recall the color and geometric lines of West African textiles. The dazzling artwork shows Big Fish dancing until his scales cascade to the ground, the scrawny Wild Cow ramming a palm tree and getting stuck there, and Leopard tumbling down a hill and knocking out his tooth. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

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