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The Colorful World of Latino Folktales

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Opossum and the Great Firemaker

Mike, Jan M.  1993.  Opossum and the great firemaker.  NJ: Troll Associates.

Summary:  Relates the traditional Cora Indian (from the Sierra Madres in Mexico) tale in which Opossum outwits the larger and more powerful Iguana and returns the stolen fire to the people of the earth (Verso 1993).
Type: Pourquoi/Beast - this tale explains why the opossum has a smoky gray body and hairless tail and why it plays dead; it is Beast because the animals talk and act like humans and the opossum outwits the Iguana.
Characters: Opossum is very clever; Iguana is selfish and powerless in the end; the Raven is helpful; and the other people are bigger and better than the Opossum until the end, they rely on the little opossum for help.
Setting: The only reference to time is at the very beginning in the first paragraph it says "Long ago, a small village..." and at the very end it says "time passed...animals moved off."  The illustrations show the people to look "indian" with dark skin and black hair and one page shows a Toucan, Macaw, and a Quetzal which tells us they are in one of the Latino countries. 
Plot:  Iguana is very big and proud of being the Great Firemaker.  His pride and selfishness makes him take the fire from the village.  The people are upset and calls on the little Opossum that they always ignore to help them.  The Opossum helps and brings the fire back down to the village.  In the end, the Iguana becomes as small as a lizard and the Opossum shows us why they are the color they are and why they play dead.
Theme: Sometimes the smaller person is larger on the inside or sometimes the larger person is smaller on the inside.

Rating: 2 out of 5
I didn't really like this folktale.  This illustrations were bland and boring, the tale was a little long.  At the very beginning I was lost and had to reread it to understand it.  I could tell my students did not like it either because they totally tuned me out. 

Additional Feature:

Opossum and the Great Firemaker: A Mexican Legend (Legends of the World)

Here are some quotes from my students:
"I didn't like it because it was not exciting."
"It was long and boring."
"Opossum is small and cute."
"I did not like the colors."

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