Friday, December 10, 2010

6. What a Scamp! Two Adorable Tales.

The Chicken Thief, written & illustrated by Beatrice Rodriguez, Enchanted Lion Books, $14.95, ages 4-8, 32 pages. A red fox bounds out from a bush and sweeps a hen off her bony feet in this adorable wordless book that has fun with us as it goes. One lovely day, Hen is pecking about in the back of Bear, Rabbit and Rooster's cottage when a crafty fox plucks her off the ground as brazenly as if raiding a chicken coop. As the fox takes off into the woods with the white hen pressed to his chest, the Bear, Rabbit and Rooster charge after him, one piled on top of another (Rabbit riding Bear's shoulders and Rooster standing on Rabbit's head). At first, the fox holds the chicken's beak closed to calm her squawking, but as night falls and all of the parties tire, he releases his paw, and her chin falls sleepily onto his shoulder.

Bedraggled as well, Fox nuzzles his chin down on her and forges ahead. That night, rather than devouring her, Fox holds Chicken in his arms, as they snooze in the crook of a tree. When the sun rises the next day, the chase resumes, but Fox, being the wily fellow he is, steals into a den to shake his scent at the end of a circuitous mountain tunnel. Turning the page, we see Bear stuck in the tunnel entrance and Rabbit straining to pull him out by his paw. Deep in the tunnel in a candle-lit cave, Fox and Chicken sit across from each other playing chess. What sort of jackal entertains his prey before eating it? Bear, Rabbit and Rooster will have to chase the fox across an undulating sea and drag themselves onto shore before any of this makes a morsel of sense. But one thing's for sure, readers will be tilting their heads and letting out a long "Aw" by story's end.

Tell the Truth, B.B. Wolf, written by Judy Sierra, illustrated by J. Otto Siebold, Alfred A. Knopf, $16.99, ages 4-8, 40 pages. Facing up to what you did and saying that you're sorry is hard, especially if you've become a legend for how awful you've been. So when the Big Bad Wolf (B.B.) is asked to come to circle time at the library and share the story of the Three Little Pigs, his first impulse is to spin the tale in his favor and make everyone think it was all a big accident. Sure, he blew down the straw house, but he was only trying to blow dandelion fluff to make a wish. His breath just traveled too far, that's all, he told the crowd. And the fire? Well, he was just minding his own business when he saw a piggy playing with matches, so being the good Samaritan that he is, he tried to blow out the flames and, well, things kind of spread.  Was the piggy grateful? Of course not, B.B. grumbled. But in a roomful of goody two-shoes, among them Gingerbread Boy, the Little Engine that Could and a reformed Pinocchio, not to mention the three pigs themselves, it's not easy to keep up a lie. Hammered by yells of, "Tell the truth, B.B. Wolf!," B.B. finally breaks down, and huffing and puffing, sings out the truth. But can a former menace ever make amends? This cheery, fun tale shows a child that even if they goof up and everyone gets mad, there's always a way to turn things around. Find a spot where you don't have to be quiet to read this one. Between Siebold's zany-fun pictures and Sierra's tongue-in-cheek humor, readers will be giggling the whole tale through.

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