cover image The Six Fools

The Six Fools

Zora Neale Hurston, , adapted by Joyce Carol Thomas, illus. by Ann Tanksley. . HarperCollins, $15.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-06-000646-4

Though Zora Neale Hurston's collection of southern folklore (from which this tale comes) was originally published more than 75 years ago, Thomas's (Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea ) adaptation here keeps the humor fresh and lively. Newcomer Tanksley's inspired illustrations, meanwhile, evoke the story's time period and culture. The narrative opens as "a dashing young man" proposes to a young woman who, when fetching cider to celebrate, starts daydreaming about what she'd name her firstborn and completely forgets about her fiancé. Her parents soon join her in her reverie. When the young man finds them sitting in a pool of flowing cider he declares: "I'm going traveling for a year, and if I find three fools as big as you, I'll come back and we'll get married." Tanksley uses fine ink lines to trace her wide-eyed characters in comical poses. Radiant pinks, purples and oranges fill the paintings with warmth, while geometric patterns, such as rows of circular cider kegs and square windows, provide a stabilizing counterbalance to such whimsical images as a man trying to pull his cow onto the barn roof. Spot and panel illustrations vary the pacing, while both the fiancé's departure and return—after discovering three more fools ("Well, well, w-e-l-l... I might as well go back and get married")—warrant full-bleed spreads. A Caribbean expression, "By that time I left" signals the story's end. Tanksley's vibrant artwork ensures that this bighearted tall tale will find a well-deserved new audience. Ages 6-10. (Jan.)