Front Porch Tales & North Country Whoppers by Tomie dePaola
(Penguin: cloth, 51 pages, $17.99).
Book Review by Rebecca Rule
New Hampshire resident, Tomie dePaola, superstar children’s book writer and
illustrator, has loosed more than 200 books upon the world in his long, celebrated
Among my favorites: Strega Nona; Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs; Now One
Foot, Now the Other; and his autobiographical 26 Fairmont Avenue series. He
has adapted folk tales from many countries -- Italy, Ireland, Mexico -- for his
In his new book, he looks close-to-home. Aiyah! Front Porch Tales & North Country
Whoppers, retells, Tomie-style, some of the Yankee yarns we were raised on. He’s
got the vernacular down good. And, as usual, the illustrations are half the fun.
Two fellas face off in silhouette, one with his hair and mustache slicked back,
the other in a red-plaid flannel shirt and matching cap. One says, “Last yehah,
summah came on Tuesday!” The other adds, “Went on Thursday!” Aiyah!
That’s conversation. A whole story in two lines. Frickin’ genius. Not that Tomie
dePaola would ever use a word so crude as “frickin’” -- that’s mine. Tomie’s
words are suitable for audiences of all ages. This book’s for older kids, but adults
will love it, too. Trust me. Send it to your Auntie in California, who moved away
thirty years ago, and misses New Hampshire like heck. Or give it to your father-
in-law who tells these stories every time the family gets together, as though he
were telling them for the first time. Or buy it for your own collection of New
You know these stories, like the one that ends “I’m right relieved. I don’t think I
coulda survived another one of those New Hampsha wintahs!” The “New
Hampsha” farmer has just learned that his border-line farm is actually in
“Vermont.” Tomie calls it “The Famah Who Hated Wintah.”
Or the one about the cow on the side hill who can tell time. I’ve heard many
versions, but Tomie’s takes the pie.
He incarnates a person-from-away as:
...this heyah rich lady...drivin’ ‘round the hills of Vermont to look at the fall folige.
Now, that don’t seem at all unusual. Lots of people -- men, ladies, children, rich
and not quite so rich -- pour into Vermont in the fall of the yehah to see the folige
cuz to tell ya the truth, theyah is nothin’ else like it, ‘less ya cross ovah into New
Hampsha. It’s the sugah maples that make the difference. They turn a special red-
orange color that makes the mountains and hills in both places look like they got
a lightbulb inside ‘em.
Long story short, “Madame’s” pocket watch has stopped. So she instructs her
chauffeur to ask a “fahmah standin’ by his fence” if he knows the time.
“Aihyah,” the fahmah answered “Jest let me git my kew.’ He walked a ways into
the field and called, “Heyah, Bessie.” A great big black-and-white Holstein cow
came walkin’ ovah to the fahmah, her cowbell ringin’ loudly. “Steady now,” the
fahmah said. Bessie stood theyah as still as a Woody Jackson paintin’. (Woody
pains a lot of black-and-white Vermont cows.) The fahmah leaned down and
looked right under that cow. “Good girl,” he said as he stood up. The fahmah
came back to the fence. “It’s exactly twenty minutes past two.”
As the story goes, the rich lady just has to know how the “kew” tells time. The
farmer agrees to show her. She climbs the hill, watching out for “kew pies.” And
a-course, when she bends ovah like the fahmah did to peek under the
kew’s belly, she can “look right down to the village and see the clock on the
Front Porch Tales & North Country Whoppers is a beaut.
Tomie dePaola admits to being a transplant from Connecticut.
But in his 35 years, give or take, living in Wilmot, NH and,
lately, New London, NH, he’s absorbed the culchah and gets
it right down pat in these good, old stories.
By gawd, the man could almost pass for a native.
To purchase Tomie dePaola's new book, click on the Amazon link, below:
About the book reviewer: Rebecca Rule is a humorist, author and storyteller, who is the
author of two collections of short fiction, including The Best Revenge, winner of the NH
Writers Project award for fiction.
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