cover image Tucker Pfeffercorn: An Old Story Retold

Tucker Pfeffercorn: An Old Story Retold

Barry Moser. Little Brown and Company, $15.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-316-58542-2

Revisiting the age-old story of Rumpelstiltskin, Moser adds original details and plenty of Southern charm. His tale commences slyly and circuitously, with the chatter of men telling stories to outdo one another. When mean Hezakiah Sweatt hears that Bessie Grace up on the hill spins cotton into gold, he demands to see her immediately. The ``widow woman'' laughs at the tall tale, but Sweatt locks her into a barn with a bundle of cotton and holds her baby hostage, demanding that Bessie Grace produce gold by the next morning. A ``peculiar little man'' helps her succeed in her impossible task, kills off Sweatt and helps Bessie Grace to escape but, true to his model, he will claim her child--unless she can come up with his unusual name. The Southern setting adds a comfortable feel as the text swings along, lazy but purposeful, with a wonderful cadence to its language. Moser's faultlessly crafted watercolors mainly depict people, not action, highlighting facial expressions with the artist's trademark use of light and shadow. Unfortunately, like portraits in a family album, the pictures seem overly passive. The movement and energy of evil and magic are missing. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)