cover image Duck's Breath and Mouse Pie: A Collection of Animal Superstitions

Duck's Breath and Mouse Pie: A Collection of Animal Superstitions

Steve Jenkins. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $14.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-395-69688-0

Two books for two different audiences seem to be sharing the covers of this attractive but unfocused title. Most of the volume consists of a quick roundup of pithy superstitions matched with sophisticated paper collages. The entries themselves range from the familiar (``A black cat crossing your path is bad luck'') to the fanciful (``Drink milk in which a fish has been swimming to cure whooping cough''). They gain vigor from the playful configurations of the type (for example, the text for ``drink milk,'' etc., is set in three graceful arcs that mime the curves of the swimming fish shown on the facing page). The selections offer little thematic variety: of the 17 superstitions included, six offer alleged cures for illness or physical affliction; five are omens of bad luck or death; and two portend good luck. Of greater interest is a final section in which the author briefly explains each maxim, placing it in historical and cultural context and otherwise amplifying it (for example, in Scotland, encountering a black cat is considered good luck). But the background information does not substitute for a plot that would hook the target audience; conversely, the picture-book format will probably not engage those readers likeliest to appreciate the thoughtful discussions at the end. Ages 5-8. (Aug.)