Southwest Children's Literature

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Alice Nizzy Nazzy

Book Review:

Tony Johnston's Alice Nizzy Nazzy is a story about a young girl who encounters a witch in the desert near Santa Fe. Having lost her flock of sheep, Manuela ventures into a roadrunner-legged hut surrounded by prickly pear cactus. Inside the hut is the witch, Alice Nizzy Nazzy, who is notorious for eating naughty children. Alice considers Manuela to be a "bad" child and throws her into a pot to be eaten. When the witch shows the child her special teas, she discovers that she is missing the black cactus flower: an ingredient that keeps her young. Manuela claims that she knows the location of the magical flower. Alice Nizzy Nazzy uses her magical pot to fly Manuela up to the top of a large canyon. At the top of the canyon, the witch retrieves the black cactus flower. Upon returning home, she throws Manuela back into the pot and decides to taste her stew. However, since Manuela is a "good" child, the stew is too sour for the witch. As a result, Alice Nizzy Nazzy embarks on a journey to find a naughty child. When the witch leaves the hut, her spell is broken. Manuela escapes, receives her flock back, and has made a new friend - the witch's giant horned lizard.

Truly, Alice Nizzy Nazzy is a book that is both well written and well illustrated. There is extensive imagery throughout the story. Children will be delighted to imagine a roadrunner-legged hut and will be engaged by the book's plot. Furthermore, the pictures are very colorful, and reflect the traditional purple and turquoise colors of the Southwest. The chili peppers on Alice Nizzy Nazzy's hair, the speckles of blue and black on the horned lizard's back, and the expressions on Manuela's face are just a few of the many details seen in this book. Alice Nizzy Nazzy would be especially appropriate for early elementary students. However, due to the fact that this book contains a witch, teachers should be cautious when reading the story to very young children. The book would also be special to read around Halloween, or it would integrate well into a unit about the Southwest.

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