BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Chukfi Rabbit’s Big, Bad Bellyache: A Trickster Tale told by Greg Rodgers, illustrated by Leslie Stall Widener

Chukfi Rabbit's Big, Bad BellyacheWelcome to Choctaw country: native storyteller Greg Rodgers re-introduces a “hidden away” tale transcribed from the 1930s to “the living world of Choctaw literature,” while native artist Leslie Stall Widener animates Rodgers’ words with whimsical renditions of the animal characters garbed in Choctaw-inspired colorful duds. Young (and old, ahem!) readers are about to learn quite a few lessons, including a short primer on Choctaw names: Rabbit, Fox, Bear, Turtle, Beaver, and Possum become Chukfi, Chula, Nita, Luksi, Kinta, and Shukata. Rodgers explains in his introductory “Note to the Reader” that he’ll be using Choctaw, English, or both in the pages ahead. “Maybe by the time you’re finished with this story, you’ll know the new names, too.”

“[E]verybody-work-together”-day is fast approaching, and all the neighborhood animals are getting ready to help build Ms. Shukata Possum’s house. Everyone, that is, except “lay-zeeee” Chukfi Rabbit who claims to be busy … until he hears that Ms. Shukata will be “‘making dinner with fresh homemade butter for everyone who helps.'” Chukfi Rabbit’s belly is growling already!

Kinta Beaver saws, Chula Fox digs, Nita Bear and Luksi Turtle hammer, Mrs. Shukata sweeps, and Chukfi Rabbit is nowhere to be found … because he seems to have made off with that homemade butter. Only when the butter is gone, and the work all finished, does he show up. Kind Mrs. Shukata invites him to the feast anyway, where the others discover the empty butter tub. Chukfi Rabbit’s wily ways keep him from getting caught … for a while, until his big, bad butter breath gives him away. A chase ensues … and then … well, what are you waiting for? Go find out already!

What began as “an archival ancestor search” at the Oklahoma History Center, Rodgers explains in his ending “Note to Storytellers and Readers,” morphed into an exploration of the “written voices of the Choctaw past.” “Chukfi Rabbit found me!” he insists. Although the Choctaw heritage is virtually timeless, the written language is not quite 200 years old. These reclaimed tales “lift our spirits, reinforce our values, and remind us who we are as a people,” Rodgers writes. His brief historical overview of his Choctaw community is certainly an enhancing addition to provocative bunny tale.

Regardless of your own background, Chukfi Rabbit is a universal lesson on trust and friendship, as well as a gentle reminder that “helping others is always more joyful than even the best butter ever.” Whether or not Chukfi Rabbit learns his lesson, readers will surely appreciate Rodgers’ effective prose and Widener’s playful pictures. Ready to join in and help? Just remember to stay away from the butter tub … or else!

Readers: Children

Published: 2014

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