, , illus. by Christian Birmingham. . Scholastic/Orchard, $18.95 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-439-58180-6

Birmingham's (A Christmas Carol ) opulent illustrations wed Geras's (My Grandmother's Stories ) lush prose for happily-ever-after results in this version of the classic fairy tale. Bordered in a subtle French blue floral motif and embellished with pencil vignettes, the large square pages of text seem elegant and inviting. These are set off by about a dozen richly worked paintings of Aurora and her parents, who pose enveloped in stiff damask, adorned with gold and jewels. Birmingham favors brilliant illumination; his scenes glow with candlelight, shine with the cool gray sheen of mist, or gleam with the golden threads of royal raiment. Geras's lovingly spun-out descriptions bump the tale up from bedtime story to

fantasy-style fiction suitable for a slightly older audience: "Dragonflies flashed suddenly around her head, the leaves on every tree whispered to her, and she could hear a humming in the air which seemed to be saying, Go back to the palace, and when the roses are in bloom, your baby will be born ." While hewing closely to other renditions of the story, Geras finds new things to say. Aurora approaches the spindle not, as in some other versions, with timidity or girlish curiosity, but with knightly courage: "True, the darkness was thick here, and a chill hung in the air, but the dark and the cold did not frighten her." Gift-buying relatives will be attracted to this volume, as will adult fairy-tale collectors. Ages 7-10. (Apr.)