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One Potato, Two Potato

by DeFelice, Cynthia


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Publishers Weekly :

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With the irresistible rhythms of an Irish brogue, DeFelice (Old Granny and the Bean Thief) puts a sweet and thought-provoking spin on the classic tale of a magic pot that reaps abundance. Mr. and Mrs. O'Grady are so poor that they have only one chair, one candle, one tattered blanket and one ragged coat between them. "They dug one potato from their little garden every day, called it breakfast, lunch, and supper, and considered themselves very lucky to have it." U'Ren (Pugdog) draws the O'Gradys as gaunt yet big-hearted; an indomitable spirit dwells in their skinny bodies. But one thing gnaws at the O'Gradys: although they love each other very much, both yearn for a friend. Then one day, Mr. O'Grady digs up a magical pot that automatically doubles anything thrown into it. One potato transforms into two, two into four, and so on; the O'Grady's meager savings grow exponentially as well. But what the O'Gradys want most is the one thing money can't buy. When they discover they can duplicate themselves, their fondest wish is fulfilled and they re-bury the pot. As U'Ren shows the double O'Gradys arm and arm, DeFelice cannot resist a final pun on the phrase, "Beside themselves with joy"—and after such satisfying storytelling, no one can deny her. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)

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School Library Journal :

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K-Gr 3–DeFelice employs her considerable storytelling skills to give an old Chinese folktale an Irish twist. Mr. and Mrs. O’Grady are so poor that they have only one of everything, and the little they have is raggedy at that. With only one potato to share for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it’s no wonder they are “so skinny they [can] sit side by side on one chair….” But when Mr. O’Grady finds an old pot in his field and drops their last potato into it, the couple’s fortunes change. One potato becomes two, and the pot continues to double whatever is placed in it. When Mrs. O’Grady accidentally falls into it and two Mrs. O’Gradys emerge, she comes up with an ingenious idea that brings lasting joy to her and her husband. U’Ren’s large pen-and-gouache illustrations infuse the couple’s grim situation with humor. The two are so tall and thin that they seem to be elastic. And the scene in which skinny legs are sticking out of the pot and then pulled out is hilarious. Their walls are full of cracks, their blankets are full of holes, but their hearts are full of love and generosity. An entertaining tale that pairs well with Lily Toy Hong’s Two of Everything (Albert Whitman, 1993).–Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT

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From BookList, September 1, 2006, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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A whimsical and odd approach to the magic pot story. Mr and Mrs. O'Grady, their children grown and gone, live frugally: they share their one chair, and one blanket, and take turns wearing their one winter coat. Each day they dig up the one potato they share for meals. They only long, each of them, for one friend besides each other to talk with. One day Mr. O'Grady finds the last potato--and a big black pot. They put their last potato in it, and suddenly there are two! Even their single candle and gold coin are doubled. When Mrs. O'Grady accidentally falls into the pot, Mr. O'Grady pulls out two. They convince him to jump in himself, so there are two of him. Then they bury the magic pot so others will find the joy of it and live content with enough for all. The pictures are all angles and curves: U'Ren uses strong color and line to delineate the spindly couple and their threadbare surroundings. Children (or more likely adults) may wonder about the story's cloning aspect, but enchantment will win the day.
GraceAnneDeCandido.

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