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BETSY WHO CRIED WOLF

Gail Carson Levine, Author, Scott Nash, Illustrator
Gail Carson Levine, Author, Scott Nash, Illustrator , illus. by Scott Nash. HarperCollins $15.95 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-028763-4
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Best known for spinning new interpretations of classic fairy tales, Levine (Ella Enchanted) here ventures into folktale territory with a perky, girl-centric take on "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." On her eighth birthday, Betsy receives a very special gift: the people of Bray Valley entrust her with the care of a flock of sheep. After taking the Shepherd's Oath and arming herself with Mom's pies and a wolf-watching checklist from Shepherd School, Betsy begins her new job on the mountainside. There, Zimmo, a "hungry, lonely wolf with a Plan" awaits her. In the original tale's tradition, Betsy alarms the local farmers with cries of "wolf" until they no longer believe her. But in a sweet-natured twist, Betsy wins over the wolf, who becomes her friend and co-shepherd. Despite a text sprinkled with plenty of fun-to-say words and names, not much tension builds, and the friendship forged between Betsy and Zimmo seems abrupt. However, Nash's (Over the Moon; Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp) slightly anthropomorphic sheep—always walking on their two hind legs—sport natty woolen coiffures and demonstrate a penchant for wisecracks. Hilarious hand-lettered asides ("The pie is mightier than the fang"; "Baaaaaad sheperdess!") give the sheep personality and lend the proceedings a snappy tone. Betsy, clad in skirt, sweatshirt and embroidered jeans, seems to straddle the Old World and the new. Kids may well cheer her courage and can-do spirit. Ages 4-8. (June)

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