cover image LEAPING BEAUTY: And Other Animal Fairy Tales

LEAPING BEAUTY: And Other Animal Fairy Tales

Gregory Maguire, , illus. by Chris L. Demarest. . HarperCollins, $15.99 (197pp) ISBN 978-0-06-056417-9

These eight retellings with animals such as "Cinder-Elephant" and "Goldiefox and the Three Chickens" in the starring roles may well appeal to readers weaned on The Stinky Cheese Man . Maguire's adaptations tend more toward Grimm than Disney, and take on a modern cast. The frog heroine of "Leaping Beauty," for instance, obviously does not prick her finger; instead she "bite[s] down on a stray explosive from some stupid human engineering project." The mother in "Hamster and Gerbil" is a beaver (the kids are adopted) who dies in the opening scene when a tree falls on her head. When the baboon king marries an evil gorilla queen in "So What and the Seven Giraffes," she orders a hunter (a human being) to leave her stepson (a chimp) in the woods. But the hunter returns with chicken livers from the supermarket rather than the chimp's heart. Maguire (Wicked ; the Hamlet Chronicles) pitches much of the humor over the heads of middle graders (e.g., in "Rumplesnakeskin," a beautiful sheep named Norma Jean must spin straw into gold to keep her movie afloat). But there's clever wordplay—the witchy porcupine threatens to turn Hamster and Gerbil in for "assault and peppery" after catching them snacking on her house—and Demarest's wild and scratchy line drawings help pump up the child appeal. A good choice for those whose tastes run to silly and sillier. Ages 8-12. (Aug.)