cover image The Tale of Willie Monroe

The Tale of Willie Monroe

Alan Schroeder. Clarion Books, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-69852-5

It may seem an unlikely transplant, but this adaptation of a 13th-century Japanese folktale seems right at home in rural Tennessee, the setting of Schroeder's (Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman) robust retelling. Willie, a ""real big feller,"" thinks he's the ""strongest critter"" in the state, until he meets feisty young Delilah and her stronger-than-steel 99-year-old granny, both previous winners of an annual ""arm-wrestlin', log-stackin', cow-milkin', field-plowin', barn-raisin' contest."" With kid-pleasing irony, Granny proclaims the muscular Willie ""weak as water"" and promises to toughen him up so he can win the next contest. Glass's (Bad Guys: True Stories of Legendary Gunslingers...) illustrations, silhouettes and full-fledged paintings, rendered in oil and colored pencil, handle the hyperbole with deadpan flair. Bumpkins with ungainly postures and oversize shoes, Delilah and Granny soberly serve up gargantuan breakfasts and take Willie to task as he trains. Readers on the younger end of the target audience may find the lengthy text and heavy dialect something of a challenge, but the eccentric characters and range of voices promise a crackling good read-aloud. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)