________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 19 . . . . May 27, 2005


The Paper Wagon: A Folktale From Friesland. (Orca Echoes).

Martha Attema, reteller. Illustrated by Graham Ross.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2005.
61 pp., pbk., $6.95.
ISBN 1-55143-356-7.

Subject Heading:
Hens-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Luella Sumner.

** /4


Later that afternoon they saw a fat cat, standing at the side of the road.

The little hen pulled in the reins. "Halt! Stop!" she called.

The wagon stopped beside the cat. "Please, Cat, could you give me directions to the fox's house? He has stolen my rooster, and if I don't find him fast, he'll eat my rooster for supper."

"I can come with you and show you how to get to the turn in the path to the fox's house. You have to go past the hollow tree stump."

"Thank you," said the little hen, "but do you have time?"

"I have nowhere to go," said the fat cat with tears in her eyes. "The dear old lady I lived with had to move, and no cats were allowed in her new apartment. No siree."

"That is awful," said the little hen.

"I'll help you save the rooster from the fox," said the cat and jumped into the wagon.


The plot of The Paper Wagon is remarkably silly, but it is a Friesian (province of the Netherlands) folktale, and, therefore, must be accepted as a story that has stood the test of time. The hen and rooster are making soup. The rooster clumsily falls into the boiling soup and is fished out in a very bedraggled state by the hen. Then the fox sneaks up and runs away with the rooster. The hen fashions a little wagon out of paper, harnesses two mice for steeds, and proceeds to drive into the forest to rescue the rooster. On the way, she meets a talking needle, brick, cat and spider, and takes them all along on the rescue mission. They are successful in freeing the rooster and return to the chicken coop to partake of the soup. Then the fox shows up - lonely, hungry and unhappy. So they feed him soup, too, and let bygones be bygones.

     Cooperation and good deeds are the burden of this story. Never mind that falling into a boiling pot of soup would burn one horribly or that a paper wagon would not hold together. The reader is meant to suspend disbelief, appreciate the foolishness of it all, and get a few laughs.

     Martha Attema has been collecting Friesian folktales for years. She lives in Powassan, Ontario. Graham Ross lives in Merrickville, Ontario. The interior illustrations, created in pen and ink, are nor very appealing, but the cover art, done in ink, acrylic and coloured pencil, is more attractive.


Luella Sumner, of Red Rock, ON, is a retired librarian.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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