Brodt, Burton P. illus. by Luc Melanson. Four Little Old Men: A (Mostly) True Tale from a Small Cajun Town. Sterling, 2005. ISBN 978-1402720062 32 pp. $
Storyteller Brodt has a lilting cadence to his voice that comes across in the text of this tale about four friends who love to play a Cajun card game called Bouree together. Their raucous game gets them ousted from Bubby’s daughter’s house, and they move on to several other locations as weather and other circumstances dictate, finally building a purple Bouree House under a sprawling oak tree until they decide it’s too stuffy, and then they move the game back outside and the house falls to ruin.
Although the descriptions of the Mississippi River, passing seasons, and shack building process are rich and lively, there are many authorial asides that interrupt the flow, and so much fuss is made about the building the men create one expects a much stronger resolution.
The illustrations are soft and comical, portraying the old men as gentle caricatures, each with distinct features, stature and dress. The endpapers are decorated with cards, and the cover illustration is, disappointingly, simply an reproduction of an interior illustration. Children will derive some familiarity and amusement from getting into trouble for being loud, and the various conflicts with perfecting the little house, but the tale seems much more suited to adults from Louisiana.
Grammatical errors such as punctuation inside parentheses, instead of outside further detracts from the overall quality. Sterling Publishing Co. has a fantastic reputation for nonfiction for children; perhaps they need to stick to what they do well, and leave the picture books to someone else.