The spring read for today is a book first printed in 1966: Tasso by William Papas. Tasso is a heart-warming, timeless fable of tradition versus change and this stunning new edition will be published by Pikku on 9th April 2017. Papas received numerous nominations for the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals throughout his career – including for his lifetime’s work. He was also a renowned political cartoonist as well as a children’s book illustrator. His work is held in collections around the world, as well as at the V&A Museum in London.
Tasso by William Papas
The Trocadero café is the lively centre of a Greek fishing village, thanks to Tasso and his bouzouki. But one day the proprietor installs a juke box, and Tasso is no longer needed. At first everyone is happy with the uninterrupted music, but gradually the noise becomes unbearable and the Chief of Police must take control. Will Tasso and his bouzouki be welcomed back to the café once more?
In this zesty and humorous depiction of Greek Island life, Papas’ timeless take continues to speak to us about the values of tradition, simplicity and shared experience.
Tasso and his sister Athena work in The Trocadero to help their father, a fisherman, support the family. It is hard work but they enjoy it. However Tasso sometimes get tired and has to rest, so the restaurant owner decides to solve the problem by getting a jukebox which will play all day and all night. Tasso is no longer needed. But the change of music changes everything else too, and The Trocadero is not what it once was. Athena, the villagers and even the Chief of Police are all affected and the proprietor must decide how he can restore The Trocadero, and indeed the village, to its usual happy self.
My first instinct when I read this book was that I love it – it’s totally unique and the story is timeless. I travelled to the Greek islands when I was younger and fell in love with them, so perhaps this helps! Tasso is full of character and what strikes you instantly is the vibrancy of the illustrations, immediately bringing to life the Greek village; you can virtually smell the sea air and hear the voices of the eye-catching villagers. Each drawing is a piece of artwork in itself and it is no surprise the story leaps off the page.
It’s a lovely tale and so indicative of the inevitable change that we all sometimes face; it might be 40 years old but its totally applicable to our lives today. In this case, the modernisation of the cafe’s music has the opposite effect planned by the proprietor – instead of making people spend more time at the café, it eventually alienates them.
Lovely Tasso and his sister Athena, who are from a hard-working Greek family, immediately feel the effects of this more than anyone else. And not only this, it causes problems across the whole village – even affecting the donkeys and goats! Very soon the villagers all come to realise the beauty of traditional ways of life. I’m sure this is something we can all relate to in today’s world of constant change and this story would make a great addition to any school library or classroom book corner. I also love that it is Tasso, with his bouzouki and beautiful traditional music, that ultimately brings the village back to life again! Tasso shows that even good intentions can have unwanted side effects and that sometimes it’s the simple things in life that are best – something I wholeheartedly agree with!
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