Author: Huling, Jan
Illustrator: Huling, Phil
Publisher and Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2002
Genre: Traditional Literature, Picture Book
Age Range: 1st-3rd grades
Summary: This version of Puss in Boots is in a Western setting. The rodeo clown father passes away, leaving his sons three items. The youngest son get stuck with the cat and isn't too happy about it. The cat tells the son to get him some boots and a sack, and so he does just that figuring he had nothing to lose. Puss catches animals and takes them to Mr. Patoot, the most powerful oilman in the state of Texas, to impress him. One day Puss and Rancher Dan (the youngest son) go to the creek by the road to swim. Puss calls out to Mr. Patoot as he drives by to help because Dan is drowning and has no clothes. Dan is rescued and rides with Mr. Patoot and his daughter in the country side. Puss goes ahead of them bribing the cowboys with their cattle and workers at the oil rigs with bar-be-que to tell Mr. Patoot that it all belongs to Dan. Puss also convinces the Ogre to turn into a mouse and gobbles him up in order to tell Mr. Patoot that the ranch house belonged to Dan as well. Mr. Patoot is very impressed with all of his estate as well as his daughter, Rosie-May. They had a big shindig with bar-be-que, fireworks, and music and Rosie-May promised to be Dan's bride. Puss was content in his work and enjoyed his sardines and sweet cream.
Response: I loved this Western style of the traditional story. The main idea of the story stayed in-line with the traditional version, but the details made it so much more modern. I like how the Hulings were able to take the story and adapt it to a Texan point of view where everything is 'bigger'. With the illustrations the people seem really tall. The same is with the animals, especially the cat. I've never seen a cat quite that large, especially on the page where Puss is sitting down at the feet of the Ogre.
I really enjoyed the simplicity of the watercolor illustrations. I think it goes along with the theme very well in that people out in the Southwest part of the United States are thought of to be cowboys and ranchers, sometimes rather simple minded. Thats not to be a cut down on their intelligence, but just the fact that they tend to be more laid back and very personable people. The color scheme in the whole book more or less consists of warm colors like yellows, reds, oranges, and browns. These colors are also related to the West and desert type areas because the climate is hot and humid.
Teaching Ideas: Use this story in comparison to the traditional version of Puss in Boots. Make a Venn Diagram to compare the two and have the students participate in organizing the information on it. Also, students could create their own version of Puss in Boots or another traditional tale, adapting it to a different culture or make it specific to them.
From Jan Huling:
Hi Dani -
Thank you so much for choosing to write about "Puss", you made my day! I love the Fred Marcellino version, too, and used to read it to my son all the time. Now I collect Puss in Boots and have versions from Russia, China, Greece, Spain, even a teeny tiny one I found in Paris! It's a great story, one I tried to make a little sweeter (by having Puss bribe the field hands
instead of threatening them) and funnier (by using broad Texan stereotypes, hopefully not in a mean way).
Of course I adore the illustrations, Phil and I had exactly the same vision of what Puss should look like.
I hope you'll keep yer eyes peeled for my next book, "Ol' Bloo's Boogie-Woogie Band and Blues Ensemble" which is supposed to be out this fall from Peachtree Publishers. It's another southern fried take on a classic fairy tale, the Brementown Musicians which is a really, really funny story in the first place. Phil's not illustrating this one (too much strain on a very happy marriage!) and I haven't seen anything yet, so I'm just keeping my fingers crossed.
By the way, I'd never heard of a Venn Diagram, but yours is a beauty!