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<< Back to Chukfi Rabbit's Big, Bad Bellyache

Chukfi Rabbit's Big, Bad Bellyache

Kirkus Reviews 1 Stars
***STARRED REVIEW*** Chukfi is a trickster worthy of the name, and this fresh, funny tale makes an excellent addition to the genre … Choctaw storyteller Rodgers invests the tale, found in the archives of the Oklahoma History Center, with plenty of humor and oral flair … Both text and illustrations positively exude good humor.
Like tricksters in traditions everywhere, “Chukfi Rabbit is lay-zeeee.”
In a time long ago, the narrator tells readers in an assured voice, Ms. Shukata Possum organizes “an everybody-work-together day to build her” a new house. Chukfi pleads prior commitments—until he hears that “fresh homemade butter” will be served with dinner. Well, that rotten rabbit shows up but disappears as soon as he can, going down to the spring where Ms. Possum is keeping the butter cool and eating it all up while feigning illness. Greedy Chukfi! When the workday is finished, he must pretend a great appetite, “even though his belly [is] great-big stuffed.” A giant, buttery belch betrays him, of course. Choctaw storyteller Rodgers invests the tale, found in the archives of the Oklahoma History Center, with plenty of humor and oral flair. From the spring, Chukfi hears the “saw-saw-sawing and the ham-ham-hammering”; as “they didn’t really have hammers back in those days, [the turtle] kindly agree[s]” to substitute. Choctaw illustrator Widener dresses her animal characters in a mélange of traditional and contemporary attire; Chula Fox and Luksi Turtle sport black, brimmed hats and tasseled belts, while Kinta Beaver wears a denim work shirt and a baseball cap. Both text and illustrations positively exude good humor.
Chukfi is a trickster worthy of the name, and this fresh, funny tale makes an excellent addition to the genre. (author’s notes) (Picture book. 5-8)
- May 4, 2014  Visit Website
Alaska Spirit of Reading 2014-15 Selection
Chukfi Rabbit was selected for the Alaska Spirit of Reading program, which in 2014-15 is focused on Native American animal and trickster tales. The Alaska Association of School Librarians sponsors the Alaska Spirit of Reading program with funding and support from the Alaska State Library and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. See the full list at http://www.akspiritofreading.com/the-books.html.
- January 1, 2015  Visit Website
LeAnne Howe, Choctaw author and poet
The Choctaws around home are singing Greg Rodgers’ praises for bringing us another story about Chukfi, our beloved trickster rabbit. A marvelous read for children of all ages—adults too!
- April 16, 2014 
Joy Harjo, author of The Good Luck Cat and For a Girl Becoming
When this Chukfi rabbit story shuffled through time and forgetfulness to find the ideal storyteller, it came to the right person. Greg Rodgers is one of the best young storytellers of his generation. Each of the animal characters charms thanks to Rodgers and to Leslie Stall Widener who provided the dynamic illustrations. This book belongs in every child’s library and the libraries of some of us older story-lovers.
- April 16, 2014 
American Indians in Children's Literature
I smiled as I read Chukfi Rabbit's Big, Bad Bellyache ... The story is delightful to read, and the illustrations by Leslie Stall Widener are terrific.
I smiled as I read Chukfi Rabbit's Big, Bad Bellyache: A Trickster Tale by Choctaw author, Greg Rodgers. Chukfi Rabbit, we learn as the story opens, is lazy. If I was still teaching kindergarten or first grade, I'm have fun saying this line from the first page with my students:
"Chukfi Rabbit is lay-zeeee."

And I'd be sure to point out that Chukfi is the Choctaw word for rabbit!
In the story, that lazy rabbit doesn't really want to help his friends build a new house, but when he learns that freshly made butter is part of the meal they'll share, he agrees to help (not). Remember--he's lazy. He'll find a way not to do any work AND a way to eat that butter while the others work!

Let's back up, though, and talk about what Rodgers shares before and after the story.

In the author's note on the title page, he lets his readers know that this is a Choctaw story, and that he'll be using Choctaw words in it. He tells us what those words are:
Rabbit - Chukfi
Fox - Chula
Bear - Nita
Turtle - Luksi
Beaver - Kinta
Possum - Shukata
In the "Note to Storytellers and Readers" at the end, he tells us he came to tell this story, and he tells us there's Choctaws in two places (the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and, there's the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians) and that each one has its own government. I love that he uses that word: government. Chukfi Rabbit is a picture book and its audience is obviously young children. They differ in their ability to understanding the idea of nation or nationhood. For those who are ready, definitely take a minute to talk about Native Nations.

The story is delightful to read, and the illustrations by Leslie Stall Widener are terrific. They provide the visual clues that this is a Choctaw story. The clothes the characters wear accurately depict the sorts of items Choctaw's wear, from tops like the one Chukfi wears to the baseball cap that Kinta wears.

Of special note is the blurb on the back from Joy Harjo, author of The Good Luck Cat. She just won a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship, by the way. Of Chukfi Rabbit, she says "This book belongs in every child's library and the libraries of some of us older story-lovers." I agree. If you can, order it from its publisher, Cinco Puntos Press.
- Debbie Reese, April 14, 2014  Visit Website
Publishers Weekly
The folksy cadence and easygoing humor of Rodgers’s narration make the story fly by. Dressed in ballcaps, sashes, and aprons, Widener’s animal cast is a friendly bunch.
Rodgers introduces readers to a handful of Choctaw animal names in this trickster story, which sees Chufki Rabbit faking an illness while other animals help build a house for Ms. Shukata Possum; Chufki then eats all the homemade butter that’s been prepared for the reward feast … The folksy cadence and easygoing humor of Rodgers’s narration make the story fly by. Dressed in ballcaps, sashes, and aprons, Widener’s animal cast is a friendly bunch—even Chufki looks like a softie, despite his selfishness (which comes back to bite him, of course). Ages 5–10. (July)
- April 28, 2014  Visit Website
Kidsbook Friends
Author Greg Rodgers discovered this tale while looking for his own ancestral information in the Oral History Archives in Oklahoma and revived the story for all to enjoy today. Illustrator, Leslie Stall Widener, also has an emotional connection as when she was young girl, she explored her grandmother’s allotted land due to her Choctaw ancestry. Enjoy an old story that doesn’t get old … See the full review for a Chukfi lesson plan for school or story time.
Chukfi Rabbit’s Big, Bad Bellyache, “What’s Better Than Butter?”

Many of the Choctaw Indians live in Oklahoma and Mississippi, their original homeland. Author, Greg Rodgers, discovered this tale while looking for his own ancestral information in the Oral History Archives in Oklahoma and revived the story for all to enjoy today. Illustrator, Leslie Stall Widener, also has an emotional connection as when she was young girl, she explored her grandmother’s allotted land due to her Choctaw ancestry. Enjoy an old story that doesn’t get old:

Introducing Our Featured Friend: Chukfi Rabbit’s Big, Bad Bellyache, told by Greg Rodgers, illustrated by Leslie Stall Widener

“Chukfi, Would you like to help build me a house?” asked Ms. Possum …
“Oh, I’m just so sorry,” said Chukfi Rabbit, “I’m much, much too busy on that day.”
“But I didn’t even say which day.”
However, Chukfi quickly agreed to help when he learned that Ms. Shukata Possum was making a delicious dinner with fresh homemade butter for all who helped!
The next day, Chukfi disappeared by the river while the others were busy digging, sawing, sweeping and hammering. He told Chula Fox he was sick but would try to help soon, but really he had snuck the fresh homemade butter down to the river to have just a taste. Well, one lick turned into handfuls until the butter was gone!
Chukfi came back just in time to see all the work done. In spite of his full tummy, he ate dinner in fear they would discover it was he that ate all their butter. When everyone napped after dinner, Chukfi found a bite of butter on his fur and put it on bear’s nose. EVERYONE blamed Nita Bear for stealing the butter UNTIL …
“Then his tell-tale belly began to shake and tremble. His tummy rumbled and before he could even get his paw up to cover his mouth, which is, of course, always good manners, he let out a great, but … BRRRUUUHPPP! …
The others had already smelled Chukfi’s big, bad butter breath.”
Chukfi was so full, he couldn’t even hop away. He rolled into the river and although he got away from the others, he suffered from a big, bad bellyache for weeks.
“But Ms. Shukata did get a nice, new house. And everybody did feel real happy about that, as helping others is always more joyful than even the best butter ever.”

Inviting You To Become FRIENDS with Chukfi:
A Little Lesson Plan for School, Home, or Story Time

Feel, Relate, Imagine, Explore, Navigate, Develop, Share

F How did the other friends feel when Chukfi didn’t do his part of the work?
How do you feel when someone in your group doesn’t do his/her part of the work?

R Can you relate to Chukfi when he didn’t want to do the work but wanted to enjoy the reward? Most of us can! What can help you next time you don’t feel like doing a job?

I Imagine that you get to have a special food reward after doing a project. What treat would you chose?

E Explore the Choctaw culture by reading about when and where the Choctaw Indians settled, their language, food, religion, and traditions.

N Navigate your way through this story by filing in a plot line appropriately:

D Develop a different conclusion/resolution to the story. How else could the story end and still have a good moral lesson?

S Share your time and talents this week by helping others. Start by helping your family! Then look to see if a neighbor, friend, or acquaintance needs help. Remember, “helping others is always more joyful than even the best butter ever.”
- Angela Henderson, April 21, 2015  Visit Website
Texas Book Lover
Chukfi Rabbit is the perfect tale to inspire the virtues, and teach the satisfactions, of community and teamwork in your little ones.
"Chukfi Rabbit’s Big, Bad Bellyache- a Trickster Tale is the engaging Choctaw parable of lazy Chukfi Rabbit, the lengths he will go to in order to avoid work, and the consequences, too. Ms. Shukata Possum needed a new house. All of her friends have readily offered to help build her new home. But not Chukfi Rabbit, who cagily tries to get out of this chore for his friend until she tells him that she is making dinner for everyone who helps, including her famous, fresh homemade butter.

Well this changes Chukfi Rabbit's mind in a hurry and he eagerly agrees to help. When the day arrives everyone shows up to help and Chukfi Rabbit is there, too, but he pretends to be sick. While everyone else is working hard for their friend, Chukfi Rabbit has found the tub of fresh butter keeping cool in the creek. When Shukata Possum discovers that the butter is gone, Chukfi Rabbit discovers that selfishness, among other things, can separate you, literally and figuratively, from your friends.

Leslie Stall Widener’s illustrations are classic and good-humored. The emotional eloquence of the animals' faces is a delight. Chukfi Rabbit's Big, Bad Bellyache - a Trickster Tale is a retelling of a Choctaw fable and as such doesn't have an author, but rather a narrator. Greg Rodgers is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and frequently travels the country sharing stories at schools, libraries, festivals, and tribal events.

Chukfi Rabbit is the perfect tale to inspire the virtues, and teach the satisfactions, of community and teamwork in your little ones. Now I'm going to head for the post office and send my copy to my brand-new grandson."
- July 11, 2014  Visit Website
Shelf Awareness for Readers
A charming Choctaw trickster tale that delivers a life lesson with a large helping of humor.
"Greg Rodgers's (One Dark Night in Oklahoma) trickster tale delivers an entertaining life lesson about good neighborly behavior with a large helping of humor.



He sets the scene with a storyteller's inflection: 'Down here in Choctaw Country most folks'll tell you that Chukfi Rabbit is lay-zeeee.' Leslie Stall Widener's (Why Would Anyone Wear That?) watercolors enhance the protagonist's predominant characteristic, as he naps among the dandelions, wearing a smart purple jacket. Folks know to watch their food when Chukfi is near: 'Blink once and it'll all be gone.' When Ms. Shukata Possum asks Chukfi to help her build a new house, he declines—until Ms. Shukata promises 'dinner with fresh homemade butter for everyone who helps.' Widener depicts a charming cast of helpers and the mouthwatering meal that awaits as their reward, including tanchi labona ('a Choctaw kind of corn stew').

Rodgers revels in the sounds of the industrious team: Kinta Beaver saw-saw-sawing and Nita Bear using Luksi Turtle's hard shell for her ham-ham-hammering. Chukfi, meanwhile, claims he's sick, and sneaks pawfuls of the tub of homemade butter in the coldwater spring. He magically heals after the house is completed, and magnanimous Ms. Shukata invites him to dine anyway. With the hostess's discovery of the missing butter, Chukfi plants evidence to cast suspicion on poor Nita Bear! 

Rodgers adds originality to the classic trickster structure through his onomatopoeic sounds of the animals working and dining, as well as Choctaw names for the characters, while Widener's expressions on the animals convey their camaraderie--as well as Chukfi's mischievous ways."
- Jennifer M. Brown, July 18, 2014  Visit Website
The Midwest Book Review
Not only is it a delightful, humorous trickster teaching tale for children, it is a living oral expression from an ancient tradition, with Native inflections, traditional Choctaw animal character names, and a wonderful flavor of the Choctaw world view essence.
"Chukfi Rabbit’s Big, Bad Bellyache: A Trickster Tale is a warm and pungent retelling of a treasured trickster take from Choctaw traditions, rediscovered and retold by talented Native American author Greg Rodgers. Buried in old Choctaw History Archives and interview transcriptions, the story of Chukfi Rabbit’s Big Bad Bellyache found its way to the author from Choctaw language records dating to the 1930’s or older. Not only is it a delightful, humorous trickster teaching tale for children, it is a living oral expression from an ancient tradition, with Native inflections, traditional Choctaw animal character names, and a wonderful flavor of the Choctaw world view essence. It is good food for the rainbow All-soul. Embellished with carefully crafted illustrations showing animal characters in suggested Choctaw costumes, Chukfi Rabbit’s Big, Bad Bellyache tells a tale that contrast the positive value of cooperative helping efforts with the sneaky, selfish act of greedy consumption of a communal treat that was meant to be shared by all. Chukfi Rabbit is invited to help Chula Fox, Nita Bear, Luksi Turtle, and Kinta Beaver spend the day building Ms. Shukata Possum a new house. At the end of the day’s building work, Ms. Shukata Possum has prepared a special treat of cornbread biscuits, grape dumplings, tanchi labona (Choctaw corn stew), and butter, a special treat. On the building day, the lazy Chukfi tries to avoid working by pretending to be sick. While the other animals are hard at work building Shukata’s house, Chukfi devours all the butter from the wooden tub keeping cool in the creek. Not only is Chukfi greedy and deceptive, he also tries to shift the blame for stealing the butter treat to another animal, by planting a patch of butter on Nita Bear’s nose. However, Chukfi’s greed backfires on his plan, and a loud belch and a big bad bellyache gives him away to his friends, who are not fooled by his trickery. The moral of the story is profound and delightful: Everybody felt happy about helping Ms. Shukata build a nice new home, and 'helping others is always more joyful than even the best butter ever.' The cadences and rhythms of the narration suggest the feel of the original tale, and children of all ages will respond joyously to the trickster antics of Chukfi Rabbit and his animal friends."
- July 25, 2014 
Randomly Reading
This is a trickster tale that will bring a smile to anyone reading it even as it teaches an important lesson about being a good neighbor.
Chukfi Rabbit is a wily rabbit. He’s a lazy boy, but he sure does like to eat. So when Ms. Shukata Possum needs a new house, she asked her friends to help, promising dinner with fresh homemade butter after the work is done. Well, Chukfi Rabbit loves butter, but he does not like working. Can he find a way to eat that tempting homemade butter without doing any work? Remember, he’s a trickster. Chukfi Rabbit is an old Choctaw tale was discovered among Choctaw interviews in the Oral History Archives at the Oklahoma History Center by Greg Rodgers while he was doing other research. This is a trickster tale that will bring a smile to anyone reading it even as it teaches an important lesson about being a good neighbor. And a real feeling of authenticity permeates it in the Choctaw names of the animals, the clothing they wear and the food the food they eat. Widener’s detailed illustrations are all expressively depicted in a soft pastel palette. Author and illustrator both members of the Choctaw Nation.
- November 30, 2016  Visit Website

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