cover image Rude Giants

Rude Giants

Audrey Wood. Harcourt Children's Books, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-269412-8

Wood's ( Silly Sally ; Little Penguin's Tale ) animated story introduces Beatrix the butter maid, who lives with her best friend, Gerda the cow, ``in a cozy cottage in a happy valley.'' The two have not a care in the world until two ``clumsy, loud, and selfish'' giants move into a nearby castle and soon decide that Gerda would make a tasty meal. But the resourceful Beatrix insists that the ``finest cow in the land'' would taste much better if they cleaned up their castle, learned some table etiquette (``Everyone knows a lack of manners ruins a good meal'') and improve their appearances by bathing, fixing their hair and dressing elegantly. The butter maid and her cow assist the giants in these pursuits and--of course--eventually find them a substitute meal. Brightly hued watercolor, gouache and colored pencil illustrations draw on Norwegian folkloric tradition, deriving some humor from a liberal dose of exaggeration. Wood's palette, however, seems unnecessarily garish, while her skewed perspectives and large-scale closeups are often ungainly instead of fanciful--these giants are not only rude, but downright ugly. Ages 3-7. (Mar.)