cover image The Bootmaker and the Elves

The Bootmaker and the Elves

Susan Lowell. Orchard Books (NY), $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-531-30044-2

In Lowell's (Little Red Cowboy Hat) version of the classic tale, the fashioner of footwear makes boots for cowpokes and rodeo queens while the elves work their magic in cowhide and stitch desert scenes. This cowboy bootmaker is ""so poor that even his shadow had holes in it,"" because the boots he makes are so ugly and pinch so hard that ""nary a cowboy would buy them."" That is, until two elves begin to inject a little life into the bootwear by moonlight. Its classic underpinnings are still here, but what makes this tale worth the telling are its colorful characters and the spurs they sport. A highlight is the pair of ""two giant boots with silver longhorn cattle on the front and golden oil derricks on the back, lone stars on the toes, and yellow roses in between."" Curry (Snail and Buffalo) gives the bowlegged Texan who buys them a body that bends into a horseshoe below the belt. His acrylic dry-brush technique lends an adobe texture to the shop walls, and the outdoor shots capture the unique quality of Southwestern light. Details like a rich rancher's longhorn hood ornament nudging the doorway or the equine rear end and saddle belonging to ""the best horse trainer in the whole territory"" framed in a window add to the fun. (And Curry breaks stereotype when two siblings stride off in two pairs of ""peewee boots, chile-pepper red and sky blue""--the cowboy sports red and the cowgirl blue.) Children will laugh their way through this Wild West ride whether they've heard the tale before or are on their first visit. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)