Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum “Best Book” Award 2002
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What’s it about?
“My toes are suffering,” says Malese, as he stretches out in his hammock. “They need new shoes, that’s what they need.” Malese hasn’t a penny to his name, and nothing to trade, but does he worry? Not at all! His pockets may be empty, but his mind is full of clever ideas. It isn’t long before he has thought up a trick to get himself some fine new shoes. When his neighbors get wise to Malese’s tricks, they decide to lock him up–but they soon discover nobody can match wits with Malese…and win!
Where did the idea come from?
In 1996 I went to visit a friend on the extraordinary island of Haiti, which was in the midst of a good deal of political chaos and violence. There I discovered a wonderful book called Haiti: The Black Republic, by Seldon Rodman. Rodman tells the story of a “legendary” clever peasant named Theot Brun who regularly outwitted his neighbors. His exploits struck me as very similar to the Brer Rabbit stories of the American south, with their trickster hero. So I adapted the Theot Brun legend, expanded it a bit, and made the star of it a Haitian trickster figure called Malese (or Ti Malice)–a little switch that I think Malese would have approved of!
What have the reviewers said?
“This well-paced, funny folktale will supplement social studies curricula and delight anyone who admires a winsome trickster.” –Booklist
“Against an exuberantly painted Caribbean backdrop, a wily man causes so much trouble that his neighbors would rather set him free than keep him in jail…MacDonald spins a narrative with verve and authenticity.” —Publishers Weekly
“Please, Malese! is a trickster tale of the highest order…MacDonald’s language is spiky and fresh; and Lisker uses color to great effect throughout.” —Horn Book
“MacDonald has taken an old folktale of a trickster peasant and turned it into a new folktale-like story, cleverly building trick upon trick.” —School Library Journal