cover image The Serpent Slayer: And Other Stories of Strong Women

The Serpent Slayer: And Other Stories of Strong Women

Katrin Tchana. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $22.99 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-316-38701-9

From the Chinese tale of Li Chi who slays a serpent and saves her village to the Gambian story of an offbeat wise woman, Hyman (Saint George and the Dragon) and her daughter Tchana here collect 18 inspiring stories about women powerful in might and mind. While Tchana's retellings occasionally get bogged down in complicated or meandering plots, her heroines are uniformly impressive. They handle swords, needles and stew pots with equal skill, marry whom they please and even outwit the devil. A few tales contain odd scenarios--as when the skull of her grandmother tells Neruvana to kill her evil husband or the Sun-Girl chooses to abandon her baby to be with her true husband, the handsome Dragon-Prince. Brief source notes indicate the diverse origins of the stories, but Tchana maintains a consistent tone, emphasizing commonality rather than differences in cultures (""Hey, girl,"" calls the king to Clever Marcela, and ""Hey, Janey,"" calls the squire in ""Duffy the Lady""). The thick, oversize picture book features a single full-page watercolor and an opening spot illustration for each story. Hyman's spirited paintings emphasize bold and determined women--Judith the pirate surrounded by her crew of court ladies, Vassilissa wrestling the duke's warlord--while keeping the details of the tales' settings intact. This is a fairy tale world where one can definitely hear women roar. All ages. (Sept.)