Kimmel, Eric A. The Three Little Tamales. Illus. Valeria Docampo. New York: Marshall Cavendish Children, 2009.
In The Three Little Tamales, Kimmel provides a southern retelling of The Three Little Pigs. However, instead of pigs, the reader follows three little tamales, which escape a taqueria to avoid being eaten. In the desert, they make individual homes and sleep peacefully, until a wolf comes to destroy their houses and make a meal of the tamales. In the end, the tamales triumph and celebrate with a party for themselves and other runaway tortillas.
Kimmel's version stays true to the original storyline of The Three Little Pigs; it opens with "Once upon a time" and two of the tamales build houses easily collapsed by the wolf, while the third perseveres. However, in this case, the third and most intelligent tamale is female. Her flouncy skirt, rosy cheeks and pink lips signify her sex, as her glasses represent her smarts. Kimmel presents a strong, clever heroine, which teaches that women are as capable of wit as men. Additionally, this retelling is set in Texas and through its language it embodies the same Tex-Mex flavors as its characters. The story adeptly incorporates Spanish to introduce children to two languages; in most cases, the Spanish words are discernable through the analysis of context clues, which enables children to exercise their critical reading skills, but it also includes a glossary of terms at the opening. Lastly, Kimmel incorporates the singsong, poetic nature of oral storytelling in the tamales' dialogue with the wolf. For example, in response to the first tamale, "Senor Lobo answered/I'll huff and I'll puff/like a Texas tornado/and blow your casita/from here to Laredo!" (12). The rhyming is playful and could be easily remembered and repeated by readers or listeners, therefore making the tale interactive. In the end, The Three Little Tamales exhibits that shrewdness can overcome obstacles and that this moral transcends cultures.
Valeria Docampo’s illustrations add color and zest to Kimmel’s adaptation. The colors reflect the bright, saturated hues, evident in the opening pages on Tio Jose and Tia Lupe’s taqueria, of Tex-Mex eateries. These colors are carried throughout the pages in the maize-colored desert and tamales, the azure night scenes, and emerald cacti, adding to the southwestern feel of the text. Additionally, the painterly brush strokes add to the liveliness and fiesta-esque nature of the story; so that, both story and art are lighthearted and amusing.
Markson, Teri. "The Three Little Tamales." School Library Journal 55.6 (2009): 92. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.
"Kimmel has pulled the pork from "The Three Little Pigs," wrapped it in masa, and cooked up another traditional tale flavored with Southwestern spice."
Yusko, Shauna. "The Three Little Tamales." Booklist 105.14 (2009): 68. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.
"An excellent addition to collections of fairy-tale retellings."
"The Three Little Tamales." Kirkus Reviews 77.3 (2009): 118. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.
"Docampo's oils are filled with southwestern colors and details. Her tamales each have a stereotyped personality all its own: the mustachioed macho brother, the pretty but not-too-bright sister and the smart sister who wears glasses. A flavorful addition to the folktale shelf that begs to be shared with a group."
Read various versions of The Three Little Pigs to investigate the different ways in which they have been portrayed.
Read tales written from the villain's point of view.
Have students write their own version of the story of The Three Little Pigs or have the write their own story from the perspective of the villain.