Delphine Denise and the Mardi Gras Prize by Brittany Mazique, illustrated by Sawyer Cloud. Albert Whitman & Co, 2022. 9780807515488
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3
Genre: Realistic fiction
What did you like about the book? Delphine Denise Debreaux is a bright and spunky protagonist who loves New Orleans and everything about Mardi Gras. Every year she and her friends ride their decorated bikes in the Mardi Gras parade. This year there is a prize for the best float, a big shiny crown. Delphine Denise imagines herself winning the prize. She excitedly tells her friends of her plan to build a float instead of riding their bikes. Her friends respond that they don’t know how to build a float and they’d rather ride their bikes since they always have fun that way. At first the friends help Delphine Denise build the float by decorating a wagon. Delphine Denise’s enthusiasm for building the best float leads her to pile on as many elements as she can. When her friends note that the float is too heavy, she reiterates her desire to win.The friends leave, planning to ride their bikes as usual. Delphine Denise decides to enter her float in the parade alone, sure that she’ll win the big prize. Unfortunately, her overloaded float falls apart along the route. She is left watching the parade, including her friends on their bikes, roll happily by. She is dejected that the parade is ruined, she won’t win the crown, and her friends are having fun without her. She decides to apologize to her friends by making a king cake, which they traditionally enjoyed after their bike ride. The four friends are shown together happily eating their king cake, promising to resume their traditional bike ride next year. The friends surprise Delphine Denise with a crown they’ve made, a crown that she declares to be better than the prize from the parade.
Delphine Denise is dark-skinned with curly hair. Of her three friends, two boys and a girl, two read as White and the third is Black. Boldly colored and lively, the illustrations capture Delphine Deniese’s big personality. The scenery include fleur de lis, crawfish, musical instruments and many other images that kids familiar with New Orleans and Mardi Gras will recognize. The story conveys the do-it-yourself aspect of Mardi Gras (making costumes, participating in parades) for kids that aren’t familiar with it. Back matter includes notes on Mardi Gras and a glossary of unfamiliar words.
Anything you didn’t like about it? Although Delphine Denise’s single-minded preoccupation with winning the big shiny crown comes across as selfish, I didn’t see an inherent problem with her wanting to enter the contest. Her friends dismissed the idea without any consideration. None of the children showed problem-solving skills when the float became too heavy, instead they just gave up while Delpine Denise insisted it needed to be bigger to be better.
To whom would you recommend this book? Elementary-aged kids who are interested in New Orleans and Mardi Gras.
Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Picture books, holidays
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Kerry Lamare, Robbins Library, Arlington MA.
Date of review: September 18, 2021