Author: Robert D. San Souci
Description: Now yes, I do realise and understand that Robert D. San Souci’s The Talking Eggs won a 1990 Caldecott Honour designation for illustrator Jerry Pinkney. However and that all being said, while I have definitely appreciated Pinkney’s accompanying illustrations, I have also never really been able to truly love them (as I tend to find his pictorial renderings rather too detailed and involved for my own personal tastes, leaving nothing much to and for my imagination, and the busyness of the visual detail even a trifle too stimulating at times, to the point of actually taking my attention, my eyes, away from what I personally think and believe ought to be the absolute star of the Talking Eggs and really of ANY type of folk or fairy tale, namely the actual text, the written and printed words). But even with regard to Robert D. San Souci’s presented narrative, his adapted and retold text, although it is both gently and in my opinion even at times humorously recounted, and while it most certainly and definitely captures both the flair and colour of Louisiana, of the American South alongside of also (and importantly) bringing forth the standard but oh so essentially true and important folk and fairy tale messages of being kind to strangers, of following both cultural and general rules of acceptable human behaviour, of simply being sweet and with an accepting and tolerant temperament (all character traits very obviously and glowingly epitomised in and by the character of Blanche and shown as the cracked and in all ways horrid, nasty mirror image in spoiled and coddled older sister Rose and the mother), I do also and very much wish that Robert D. San Souci had presented a more detailed author’s note than just the few words at the beginning stating that The Talking Eggs is an adapted Creole folktale originally included in a collection by Alcee Fortier (for while that source acknowledgment is indeed appreciated, why is the actual title of the collection not mentioned, why is only Alcee Fortier’s name pointed out).
And furthermore, considering that if one begins perusing The Talking Eggs, one soon realises (or at least should come to the conclusion) that this is in fact NOT only a Cinderella type of folktale (as is so often claimed), but that The Talking Eggs features vestiges of at least four specific Aarne-Thompson folktale types, with Cinderella (AT 510) actually being considerable less apparent (at least in my folkloric opinion) than AT 480 (the kind and unkind girls), AT 431 (the house in the forest) and AT 403 (the black and white brides), I very much do wish that the entire author’s note had been considerably more expansive and detailed (especially since The Talking Eggs is to and for me content and thematics wise considerably more similar to so-called sibling quest than to Cinderella type of folktales, to stories in which the kind but generally bullied and often youngest daughter wins or rather successfully completes her tasks, her tests, but her generally nasty siblings when they then also try, when they also desire to obtain riches and admiration, rather miserably fail, stories like the Grimms’ Mother Holle, The House in the Forest and the Irish folktale of Blond, Brown and Trembling). Still even with my personal frustrations at the lack of a detailed (folkloric and academic) author’s note (and I guess I am partially so vexed because so many of Robert D. San Souci’s later folktale adaptions do contain meticulously researched and detailed author’s notes that are an intellectual joy and as important to and for me as the actual presented texts are), I do highly recommend The Talking Eggs as a wonderful and readable Creole American folktale retelling (and yes, even Jerry Pinkney’s accompanying illustrations very much suit the author’s narrative, it is just that in and of themselves, they just are not really all that much to my personal aesthetic tastes, as they simply are a bit too overly detailed and therefore somewhat visually distracting to and for me.
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