cover image The Three Billy Goats Gruff

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Jerry Pinkney. Little, Brown, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-34157-8

In an artist’s note, Caldecott Medalist Pinkney (The Lion & the Mouse) says that he held back from retelling this famous folktale over the years because the traditional ending “confounded” him. This version and its new conclusion are worth the wait. Three skinny goats see a bridge between them and hills of lush grass. The hairy, green-skinned troll who guards the bridge has warthog tusks and long claws. The smallest goat approaches, the troll threatens, and the goat parries: “Oh, no, don’t eat me!... Wait until the next billy goat crosses. He’s much bigger than me!” Pinkney lingers over the goats’ clunky, curvy hooves and their skeptical expressions. Hand-lettered sound words such as the story’s familiar “trip, trap, trip, trap” amp up the visual energy; the troll’s hands claw through the panel borders. A magnificent gatefold captures the moment that the oldest, biggest billy goat smashes through the bridge gate. The troll is tossed into the water (“Bam! Splash! Gulp!”), where he gets a dose of his own medicine as an even-larger creature threatens him. It’s an ending so natural that readers may not realize it’s a new addition, and it creates a neat pivot that turns a story of revenge and comeuppance into one that dwells instead on empathy. Pinkney is generous with his gifts; his paintings are splendid, nuanced, and unfailingly entertaining. Ages 4–8. Agent: Sheldon Fogelman, Sheldon Fogelman Agency. (May)