cover image ONCE UPON A TIME


Niki Daly, . . FSG, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-35633-0

Sarie, a rural South African girl, dreads reading aloud in school: words on the page "tripped up her tongue. She stuttered and stammered over them." Everyone in class mocks her except Emile, who reasons that the ringleaders are jealous because Sarie is "as pretty as a princess." Daly (Jamela's Dress) brings in a host of elements to turn Sarie's eventual mastery of reading out loud into a Cinderella story. The elderly Auntie Anna, who lives across the veld, entertains Sarie in her rusted-out car, which sits comfortably on the dirt without its wheels; she and Sarie pretend to drive it far away. Shortly after Sarie confides her fears about reading to Auntie Anna, Sarie finds a battered copy of Cinderella in the back seat of the car, and with the old woman's help, she reads it aloud. Auntie Anna dubs Sarie a Cinderella and identifies Emile as her prince, and back at school, Sarie reads and "the words poured out as clear as spring water." While Daly's watercolors have lots of life, from the quick studies of Sarie's classmates to the vast expanse of the dry veld, the story's mix of fairy tale motif and real-life problem seems forced. Despite Auntie

Anna's loving care in aiding Sarie with her difficulties, kids who struggle with reading may not find enough here to help them. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)