cover image The Hobyahs

The Hobyahs

Robert D. San Souci. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $14.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-385-30934-9

In this unsettling tale a motley pack of dogs protects an elderly couple and a small girl by scaring off a band of encroaching Hobyahs, creatures with ``fur and claws and pointed ears and sharp teeth and tails half again as long as themselves.'' But when the grumpy old man and woman send away their noisy dogs one by one, they seal their own fate: with gruesome ferocity, the beasties creep in to feast on the couple's flesh and kidnap the girl. San Souci's well-paced narrative is propelled by a strong sense of impending doom. As the Hobyahs approach, atmospheric rhyming couplets announce their presence (``Silent as the snakes that glide''), adding another layer of suspense to this grim tale. Bold illustrations with an Eastern European folksiness rely on comic exaggeration and, further dispelling some of the text's menace, emphasize bright eyes lurking in shadows and beautifully detailed nighttime foliage. The five stalwart hounds, an outre bunch, recall Eric Carle's animals. Nervous laughter bubbles beneath the surface of this book, a strange hybrid of lyrical narrative and amusing illustrations, infused with unrelenting darkness. All ages. (Apr.)