Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Picture Book: The Three Little Dassies by Jan Brett


Story Summary 
The Three Little Dassies follows the format of the beloved childhood favorite The Three Little Pigs. This version is set in Africa which gives it a distinctive, multicultural flare.  Like the three pigs narratives, the dassies (referred to as a rock mice in Africa) leave their family and travel a long distance.  When the dassies arrive at the foot of a mountain, a handsome Agama Man (similar to a lizard) greets them.  He informs them no one has lived there for a long, long time.  The only setback to the location is a family of eagles lives at the top of the mountain (predators to the dassie).  Despite the scorching desert heat, the dassies shiver at the thought of the eagles.  Nevertheless, they proceed to make their homes there.  Mimbi makes her house out of long grasses that she cuts, braids, and bundles together.  Pimbi builds her home of driftwood.  Both finish relatively quickly and take naps inside their new homes, out of the rays of the blazing sun. Timbi, though, continues to work to construct her house out of rocks she collects from around the mountainside. 
The next day, Mimbi and Pimbi are caught by an eagle that easily breaks into their homes of long grass and driftwood.  Greedily, the eagle goes back for the third dassie.  As the eagle waits outside her door, she taunts her, “I’ll flap and I’ll clap and I’ll blow your house in!”   Unable to successfully take the stone house down, the eagle returns to her nest to enjoy the other two dassies for her meal.  Fortunately, the friendly and watchful Agama Man sees the capture of Mimbi and Pimbi.  He climbs up the mountain and rescues them while the eagle is distracted attempting to get into the third dassie’s stone house.   Returning to an empty nest, the eagle swoops down and attempts to get the dassies through the chimney hole of the third dassies' abode.   The hot blast from the fire singes the eagle so indelibly that he never bothers the dassies again.  Today, dassies still live in rock homes near the mountains with agama men looking out for them.
Evaluation:
Lovers of Jan Brett’s intricate illustrations and delightful stories will not be disappointed with her latest book.  The creatures are adorable and endearing.  The African cultural elements make the story unique while the popular plotline creates a familiar story for young and old.  For teachers, The Three Little Dassies could be used as a part of a unit on Africa, animals, or fairy tales.  The story is ideal for comparison to other books with the same plot line.  For students already familiar with The Three Little Pigs, they have an opportunity to predict what will happen as the Dassies tale is read.

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