In Armadilly Chili, Miss Billie Armadilly is, in fact, what
her name implies, an armadillo. She has a hat with a wide western brim,
a walking stick that appears to be made from an old saguaro rib, and
a desert-dry impatient personality. Having stepped out of her little
mission style house, she is assiduous (in spite of and even on account
of the cold Southwest wind) in collecting various ingredients for an
excellent "Armadilly chili." The wind blows and she works;
she gathers the black beetles. Her friend Tex the tarantula saunters
by; she implores him for help. He declines on account of the "dance
he is on his way to." Though she is put off by this answer, her
peevishness does not deter her from completing her task. She is nearly
finished picking the requisite hot things from her pepper/ chili garden,
when she asks Mackie the bluebird for a song and a hand. He disappoints
her too; he says he's off for the movies. Her friend Taffy the horned
toad would rather go skating then help harvest the final ingredient-prickly
In the evening, in her little warm house, Miss Billie cooks her delicious
chili and sets a place for herself to dine. Her three friends appear
out of the night and cold, drawn to the good smells and light of the
hearth. Still resentful of them, Billie sends them away with the sharp
admonition: "No workin, with Billie, no sharing the chili!"
Billie sits down again to eat; she is obviously lonely. She feels the
one thing that is missing friends. Suddenly, they all reappear bearing
delicious dainties to go along with the chili: jalapeno biscuits, cider
and fudge. The one ingredient that made the difference was her friends.
The author, Helen Ketteman, loves Texas; she lived there nine years.
The story reveals her sensibility with regard to western folklore. Her
language is full of the gritty colloquial things spoken by the old western
story personalities. Billie is especially endowed with this nostalgic,
western habit of speech.
Will Terry's illustrations add to the quality of the story. He made
the wind really look cold; the saguaros really look prickly; the broad,
sandy places really lonely, and the bleached cow skull really desolate.
His hearth, with its gentle light and interior warmth, beckons friendship.
Children will partake in the good tasting food of story, of things shared
at the common table.
Helen Kettteman has fifteen picture books for children to her credit.
Information on these and other titles may be found at www.albertwhitman.com
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