Written by Helen Ketteman, Illustrated by Keith Graves
Scholastic Press, 2000
In the bare bones beginning, Armadillo’s ears were as tall as a jackrabbit’s and as wide as a steer’s horns.
The plot in a nutshell: An armadillo gets punished for telling tales on his friends
With his big ears, Armadillo can hear extremely well, but they make him slow and clumsy. The other animals beat him to the watering hole every time, so he’s always thirsty. He overhears Egret telling turtle that Blue Jay is not looking well and she’s concerned for his heath. Armadillo rushes off and tells Blue Jay that Egret thinks he looks scraggly. Blue Jay throws a fit and before he knows it, Egret shows up, angry that Armadillo eavesdropped and then twisted his words. This happens twice more, with other animals. But when Armadillo tells on Alligator, he’s made a big mistake. Alligator snaps off his long ears, leaving him little tiny ones. After that, Armadillo finds that he can run and get all the water he wants, but he can no longer eavesdrop on his friends. To this day, armadillos have small ears and they never tell tales.
Author Helen Ketteman has written a ‘pourquoi story’ in the same manner as Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories which offer humorous background explanations as to why some animals have their specific appearance (and, usually, what lesson they learned while acquiring that appearance). She sets this one in Texas, using animals that can be found in that general area. She also includes some fun phrasing, such as having each of the wronged animals throw a ‘humongous hissy fit.’
Keith Graves uses acrylic, ink and colored pencil to bring these colorful characters and their environment to life. Armadillo seems to have been drawn with a sneaky and untrustworthy expression from the first page, so you get the idea that he is deliberately creating this disharmony among his friends, but he still seems surprised and upset when they berate him for it. I liked the artwork and the anti-gossiping message was well conveyed, but I didn’t feel that the book, overall, was a standout.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that a sure way to lose friends is to tell stories about them, especially when you get your facts wrong.