Toads and Diamonds: 9

Robert Bender, Author, Robert Bender, Illustrator
Robert Bender, Author, Robert Bender, Illustrator Dutton Books $13.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-525-67509-9
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For this retelling of Perrault's 1697 ``The Fairies,'' Bender again uses the striking paint-on-acetate medium he pioneered in A Little Witch Magic. But this time his unshapely pictures and narrative share a murky quality. The widow Asphalta inhabits a dreary wood with her two daughters, ``kind and generous'' Merth and Bleacha (``a chip off her mother's horrible block''). One night, Merth trips over a three-headed troll and, although she's frightened, she gives him the help he asks for. By way of thanks, he enchants her so that every time she sings, diamonds and other gems pop from her mouth. When Bleacha encounters the same troll, she curses it; ``slimy toads, vipers, and insects'' thereafter drip from her gullet. The watch-your-language subtext comes across, but Bender's prose needs polish. The artwork is at times dreamlike, as when a precious stone glows orange inside Merth's yellow skirt-pocket, but the predominant hues here are mud-brown and damp-looking algae-green. Ages 4-8. (May)
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