Enormous Potato, The
The Enormous Potato, retold by Aubrey Davis. Toronto: Kids Can Press of Toronto. 1997 (ISBN1-55074-386-4 $14.95)
Its first U.S. edition will be out in 1998. It is a retelling of that classic story of cooperation, The Enormous Turnip. Anyone familiar with that tale - and who is not - will fall readily into this story of a man who plants an eye, a potato eye, and then watches it grow to monstrous proportions. In his efforts to wrest it from the ground he enlists the aid of his wife, daughter, dog, cat, and a mouse. The potato is finally free, the family washes and cooks it, and all the townspeople arrive, drawn by the smell, to help eat it.
Although I like the illustrations by Dusan Petricic. I have a problem with the design of the book. The man plants the potato eye just slightly to the left of the fold in the two page spread. As it grows, the greenery extends into, and past, the center and up off the top of the page. I found that centering the picture that way decreased the impact of the size of the plant which appears to be being eaten by the center fold. On the page which shows the man and all the others, down to the mouse, signalling their approval of the now eaten potato, the wife virtually disappears into the crack!
The story is told in the simplest possible way with occasional hints of Aubrey's creative charm. He obviously made choices in this retelling, choosing to tell it in such a way that it is left wide open for the storyteller, or reader, to interpret if there is to be interpretation beyond the obvious cooperation theme. Because of this extreme simplicity, the story will be useful for beginning readers and for beginning storytellers. I should also mention being surprised at a potato being pulled, rather than dug, and that the foliage of the potato was still so green at the time of its harvest. But, then, I have not grown many potatoes.
The Second Story Review, Vol 2, No. 3, Sep 1997