________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 12 . . . . February 17, 2006


Tapicero Tap Tap.

Warabé Aska.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2006.
24 pp., cloth, $22.99.
ISBN 0-88776-760-5.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

**½ /4


When Grandpapa saw us in the doorway, the tap tap tap of his hammer stopped.

“I wasn't always old, you know,” he said. Pedrito looked at him doubtfully. Laying aside his tools, Grandpapa continued, “I'll tell you what. Bring your friends up the hill, where there is a breeze, and I will tell you a story.”

And that is what we did. Tapicero Tap Tap's stories are as fine as his furniture .


On a sweltering summer's day in a quiet Spanish seaside village, a group of children find it too hot to sleep during the afternoon siesta. They are drawn to the tap tap tap sound of the resident furniture builder's hammer. In their boredom and sweaty discomfort, the children turn for entertainment to the man known locally as Tapicero Tap Tap. As fine an artisan as he is, Tapicero Tap Tap has a reputation also for excellence in storytelling.

internal art

     The old man then proceeds to share with the children his own childhood dreams of travel to far-off places. As a boy, Tapicero Tap Tap could think of nothing so wonderful as to indulge in the strange and exotic customs and cultures of distant lands. Alas, with the advent of war, Tapicero Tap Tap's life changed. He was forced to abandon his dreams and work—making furniture to earn whatever he could to cope with the hard times of scarcity and want brought about by the war.

     With time, however, Tapicero Tap Tap learned to “relish the tastes of home.” He became content with his life, rejoicing in the spectacular annual celebration of the fiesta. Tapicero Tap Tap came to realize that his own sleepy village hosted wonderful customs and celebrations of its own.

     Warabé Aska's artwork for this book is done in oil on canvas. I profess to a weakness for this medium for picture book illustration. Many of the paintings boast bold and bright colours reflective of the fiesta celebration. Despite the colour, Aska's skillful use of shadow and shade was for me what most caught the eye.

     Despite my overall enjoyment of the book, however, I must confess to some reservations. For reasons unknown to me, the very last page of the book contains no illustration. At the book's end, when I would have liked to enjoy a sense of culmination, the lack of illustration left me with a sense of unbalance. This unbalance is exaggerated by the fact that the penultimate pages feature a double-spread full-colour illustration without words. Whether an artist's or a publisher's decision, I know not, but for me, this set up does not work. Furthermore, although Aska's interior and exterior images are a delight, I find that his human figures do not match the quality of the other objects in the paintings. Again, for me, it creates a sense of imbalance.

     Finally, I also wonder at how the text ends. Throughout the story, things are set up to convince us that Tapicero Tap Tap's life has been a happy one. Despite not getting to leave his village, he has, indeed, fulfilled his dreams. He has experienced the wonder and diversity of life. Yet, at story's end, Tapicero Tap Tap informs his listeners that next week he is going to leave the village and sail across the ocean. I find this ending unsatisfactory and in contradiction to everything that has preceded it.

     I concede that the ending is a departure from predictability. At book's end, however, I am left not with a sense of pleasant surprise, but this troubling sense of unbalance.

     Despite these reservations, the story and artwork are appealing. This is a book worth sharing with children. It contains a valuable reminder that we should endeavour to be happy in our surrounds. What matters is not so much where we live, but how we live.

Recommended with reservations.

Gregory Bryan is a member of the language arts staff in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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