PINDULI

Janell Cannon, Author . Harcourt $16 (48p) ISBN 978-0-15-204668-2

Cannon (Stellaluna ) applies her familiar formula to the animals of the African savanna in this rambling tale of a striped hyena who learns about how cruel insults can be. Once again, Cannon combines an anthropomorphic story with factual endnotes about the wildlife, and the engaging artwork succeeds in making an unappealing creature sympathetic. The illustrations mix Audubon verisimilitude with Disney-like sentimentality. When Dog, Lion and Zebra insult young Pinduli, her ears droop as if she were a sad-eyed, lovable cartoon rabbit; and when the animals think dust-covered Pinduli is a ghost, their suddenly yellow eyes bulge like startled characters in a Halloween movie. The text often grows ponderous ("Please spare us your wrath!," says Lion to the ghost, "I, too, have spread discord, by insulting a young hyena's mane"), and the plot mushrooms in complexity as readers learn that each animal has insulted Pinduli because they were insulted themselves. (With a nod to Stellaluna , Fennac Fox explains, "I guess I was having a bad day. Serval Cat said I looked like a little fuzzy bat without wings.") By the time the insults multiply and apologies go around, the message has been underscored a dozen times. Nonetheless, this disappointingly didactic effort may well appeal to Cannon fans. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)