cover image Tales for a Winter's Eve

Tales for a Winter's Eve

Wendy Watson. Farrar Straus Giroux, $13 (30pp) ISBN 978-0-374-37373-3

When Freddie Fox hurts his paw, breaks his ski binding and has to limp back to his burrow on Vinegar Lane, his parents, two brothers, sister, grandparents, Nellie Mouse and Bert Blue Jay all try to jolly him out of his misery with some tales of their own. Their stories ease his discomfort: in one, a greedy raccoon gets his just deserts for devouring too many muffins; in the next, a thief is caught red-handed by a clever storekeeper; in the third, an excited mouse unintentionally foils the plans of some liars and cheats. Watson is most at home in her tellings when she uses a third-person narration, which sets the tone of the opening and closing chapters of this story book. The stories in between fail to match that tone; they are relayed in the first-person by each storyteller and lack immediacy. The homey pictures of the family are by far the most successful aspect of this book; a winter evening on Vinegar Lane seems appealing indeed. But even these watercolor scenes are not enough to merit repeat visits to the snug group. Ages 3-5. (Oct . )