Margaret Read MacDonald,
illustrated by Yvonne LeBrun Davis,
Slop! (A Welsh Folktale)
(Fulcrum Publishing, 1997)

Slop! is a cheery picture book about being a good neighbor.

An old man and old woman live in a cozy little house with a fence around it. Every night, the old woman prepares a vegetable stew, dumping the peelings and after supper the dishwater into a slop bucket. Later in the evening, the old man carries the heavy bucket out the door and dumps it over the front fence. Slop!

One night, a plaintive voice speaks to the old man: "I wish you wouldn't do that." At his feet is a wee little man, down whose chimney, as it turns out, the old man has been pouring the slops every night. Dismayed, the old man and old woman use their savings to cut a back door into the house so that the old man can take the bucket to the back fence, an arrangement which makes all parties concerned happy. As a reward for the couple's selfless sacrifice, the wee little man and his wife roll a gold coin into the house every night -- through the back door.

Margaret Read MacDonald is a librarian and storyteller well known for her crisp clear retellings of folk tales which are not only appealing as read but are easy to learn to tell independently of the book.

Slop! is simple and straightforward, but leaves room for play; perfect for reading one on one or to a group, the text invites children to participate in calling out "Slop!" every time something is dumped in the slop bucket.

Yvonne LeBrun Davis's sunny and clear illustrations are a perfect match of the text. She incorporates a number of images related to Wales -- ponies, a corgi, leeks -- into her paintings and her overall eye for detail further enhances the lively illustrations.

More than a charming folktale, Slop! tells us that being a good neighbor can be rewarding, even when it require some effort. This is a lesson which could always use reinforcement, whether the listener is small or grown.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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