cover image MOLLY AND THE MAGIC WISHBONE

MOLLY AND THE MAGIC WISHBONE

Barbara McClintock, Author, Barbara McClintock, Illustrator . FSG/Foster $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-34999-8

McClintock (Heartaches of a French Cat) does wonders with a modest Charles Dickens story, casting it with Rackham-esque animal characters and placing it in a wintry 19th-century city. Whereas Dickens's 1868 tale "The Magic Fish-Bone" concerns a princess, this captivating revision introduces Molly, a graceful gray-and-white cat who cares for four younger siblings in a sparsely appointed house. When Molly goes to market, she threads her way among a motley assortment of birds, foxes and mice, all humanly attired in cloaks, bonnets or tailored suits. On her way home with a big fish in her wicker basket, she meets an elder cat, a fairy godmother who instructs her to make a wish on her leftovers: "Sure enough, that night, right after all the fish was eaten, one thin white bone was left on Molly's plate./ It must be true!" Molly's brothers and sisters prod her to choose fine clothes or candy, but Molly knows what she must wish for when the youngest kitten, Phylis, wanders away and gets lost in the teeming city. McClintock's meticulous illustrations of candlelit domestic scenes, inviting shop fronts and horse-drawn carriages resemble hand-colored wood engravings and reward close scrutiny; the author devotes careful attention to the expressive animal characters, demonstrating through various vignettes Molly's patience (and aggravation) with her clamoring feline family. Earth-toned watercolors and cream-white stock enhance the old-fashioned appearance, and both the splendid imagery and harmonious layouts recall Caldecott's picture books. Ages 3-6. (Oct.)