cover image The Devil's Other Storybook: Stories and Pictures

The Devil's Other Storybook: Stories and Pictures

Natalie Babbitt. Farrar Straus Giroux, $13 (81pp) ISBN 978-0-374-31767-6

Could it be that young readers' minds are going to the Devil? That's certainly not the case in this logical follow-up to that little red volume, The Devil's Storybook. This bluish-green book contains 10 other Devil stories, told by a very dextrous fiddlemaster. There are such familiar diabolical incarnations as a fortune-teller, a hunter, a soldier, a pick-pocket rascal and a ""nosey'' writer. The fortune-teller causes the populace of a whole village to be overrun by strangers; the hunter helps keep a threatening rhino busy (the latter constantly chases the former); the soldier is upstaged by the Devil's prominent list of historic battles that he's attended; the writer's vice is ``writing books no one could understand'' he's accused the rascal of attempting to pluck his purse, but the well-versed thief claims it's ``all flytrap,'' since his accuser is ``more squeak than wool.'' There are the usual stories of mistaken identity commonly associated with tales of devilry; and those dealing with ``justice'' and Christmas: the camel Akbar, a Devil's pet, throws his rider and follows a shining star under which a baby is born, ``who was going to be nothing but trouble for a long, long time.'' The author's traveling to the very gates of Hell brings to this children's book a spacious dimension of unadulterated maturity. These stories are simply some of the funniest available. For Babbitt, the Devil is more than a subject for amusement and less than an article of belief; she is nevertheless writing within the realmthe good and the badof the religious. As in the ``Simple Sentences'' story, Babbitt can rightly be placed in the middle ground between her two eloquent and hilarious protagonists, the rascal and the writer. A Michael di Capua Book. Ages 8-12. (May)