Who's afraid of the big ol' wolf? Not Compre Lapin, the roguish rabbit nemesis of Compre Bouki, featured in Lapin Plays Possum, a collection of three hilarious folk tales adapted by Sharon Arms Doucet. Originally brought to Louisiana by West African slaves in the early 1700s, the fables have been told and retold on porches in the Louisiana Bayou country by Cajuns and Creoles alike.

Doucet admits to taking liberties in the recounting and recombining of the tales. "Compre Lapin's famous cousin Brer Rabbit ended up on the East Coast," she explains. "Compre Bouki started life in Africa as a hyena." Since hyenas tend to be scarce in Louisiana, Bouki evolved into a dog-wolf character, large on size, short on brains.

Duping the dog is Lapin's favorite pastime. Capricious by nature, his ideas for tricks to play on his friend Bouki pop up faster than corn in a Louisiana frying pan. In the first story, the characters are introduced and the stage is set. Bouki casts a big shadow and owns a farm field with "soil so rich that if you planted a penny at sunrise, you could pick a dollar before sundown. But as for smarts, he must have been hiding behind the barn door when they were passed out." Lapin is a puny, penniless rabbit, but he has one thing going for him, an extra helping of smarts. He uses his wily ways to garner some of Bouki's wealth for himself.

In the second story, Bouki wants to get even and vows to turn the tables on his crafty friend. But nobody is as good at being bad as Lapin! He can't resist playing tricks on Bouki anymore than he can refuse King Cake at Mardi Gras.

The last story, "Lapin Tangles with ÔTee Tar BŽbŽ'," is a feisty retelling of the famous "briar patch" fable. As Lapin says, "Size ain't anything in this world. It's what you do with it that matters." Using an impressionistic style, illustrator Cook fully captures the action and humor as well as the impish nature of that rascally rabbit, Lapin.

In her glossary of Cajun terminology, Doucet explains that compre (comb PARE) means comrade or brother. Soon, kids everywhere may be saying do-do (doh DOH: night-night) to their parents when the stories are tout fini (too fee NEE: all gone).

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