Hello, friends! Our book today is Alice Nizzy Nazzy, written by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Tomie dePaola, a re-release of the 1995 title of the same name by the author-illustrator duo.
Parents near the pueblo of Sante Fe all want their children to steer clear of Alice Nizzy Nazzy, a child-eating witch who lives in a magic house that has roadrunner legs and a fence of prickly pear. One day, a little girl named Manuela comes upon Alice Nizzy Nazzy’s strange home while in search of her missing sheep, and ventures inside. Outsmarting the house’s magical defenses, she comes face-to-face with the frightening figure herself! Can Manuela keep her wits about her?
As much as anyone, I can appreciate the impressive body of work by Johnston and dePaola; however, I don’t think this is a good book. In fact, considering the blatant cultural appropriation in the narrative, text, and artwork, I would be willing to say that this is a pretty bad book. With the intention of taking the Strega Nona fable of Russian folklore – which the pair has previously adapted to great success – “move her to a snazzy new location,” Johnston and dePaola’s work in this title uses Latin-American culture, dress, and art as set-dressing around a Russian fable adapted by two white creators, and it falls flat. With the abundance of authentic Latinx and indigenous folklore picture books available from creators who are members of these these cultures, this feels like a relic from the past by the first page. Beyond that, while some of the folklore elements are intriguing (even as they are blatantly appropriative), the story is trite and unsatisfying, with a protagonist who shows little agency and a villain who escapes punishment. Length was fine, and JJ enjoyed some of the fantastic elements, but also seemed confused by the ending. Overall, take a pass on this one. You’re not missing much.
(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)