cover image The Devil & Mother Crump

The Devil & Mother Crump

Valerie Scho Carey. HarperCollins Publishers, $11.95 (39pp) ISBN 978-0-06-020982-7

Meet Mother Crump, who is meaner than the devil himself. When he comes sniffing around her bake shop, she uses her bread ""peel'' (paddle) on him, then lets him go for the price of three wishes. When Death approaches she chases him away and uses two wishes to rid herself of Lucifer's kin, who have been sent for her. The third wish she uses on none other than the ``old goat-foot.'' Her soul eventually leaves her body for Heaven where she's refused entry, then Hell where the Devil locks her out and yells, ``You're mean enough to go start a Hell of your own.'' Mother Crump is one stout and unruly character, but the ornery story is awkwardly told and the plot too slim for its length. Such a battle of wits invites c omparison with Natalie Babbitt's The Devil's Storybook, and Carey's is found lacking. But Lobel's phenomenal talent provides the necessary supplement, in characters with angular features whose antics provide slapstick relief, all in deep colors doused with dark charcoal shadows. Ages 7-11. (September)