Malone's (How Many Miles to Bethlehem?
, reviewed Sept. 27) jewel-toned paintings will give pause even to readers thoroughly familiar with Prokofiev's piece. Schulman (Countdown to Spring!
) softens the traditional text, letting the duck free at the story's end. Otherwise, the narrative plays second fiddle to Malone's images. He takes his palette from Italian frescoes—in shades of sage and cherry bleached by age and the noonday sun. Poignant detail enlivens the human figures—golden-haired Peter in his milk-white blouse, bearded Grandfather in straw hat and suspenders—and the architecture of the town center plus the hats of the red-nosed hunters give a nod to the composer's Russian origins. As the wolf enters the action and Peter plots his capture, the artist frames the dramatic moments in eerie stillness. Malone's sedate tableaux give even witty moments gravity. As the bird and the duck bicker about whether fowl should swim or fly, a spot illustration shows the duck imagining the bird encircled by a tiny inner-tube, equipped with flippers, while the bird pictures the duck fitted out with a wooden propeller and an aviator's headgear. Medieval perspectives, billowing golden clouds and the sporadic reappearance of figures from Grandfather's dreams all deepen the feeling that the story takes place in a world far away. All ages. (Sept.)