cover image The Bear and the Bird King

The Bear and the Bird King

Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm, Jacob W. Grimm. Dutton Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-45118-1

Verve and humor infuse a retelling of a little-known tale from the Brothers Grimm, then are reflected and multiplied in wonderfully detailed artwork. When Bear insults the king of the birds' fledglings (``You look like plain old nasty children to me''), a full-scale war erupts between beasts and birds. Even after defeat, Bear will not apologize, but a steady dose of birds' squawking and chirping and beating their wings against the door of his den soon brings him to his knees. While the plot is unremarkable (except as a comment on the illogic of war), the illustration and book design yield treasure. Animals and birds alike are bedecked in finery, dapper in top hats, frock coats and bustled gowns, while delicate cross-hatching and melodious compositions offset the artifice of the theme. Spreads vary in layout, some with double-page pictures populated by a veritable Waldo -size cast of two- and four-legged creatures, others with text and art interspersed. Luminescent hues endow each page with a spring-rain freshness, while an underlying wit adds edge. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)