cover image Animal Stories

Animal Stories

Dick King-Smith, Dick King Smith. Orchard Books (NY), $18.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-531-30099-2

More fun than a barrel of monkeys, these eight previously published tales by the author of the beloved Babe: The Gallant Pig bubble over with good cheer. Perhaps the pick of the litter is ""Fat Lawrence,"" about an enormous black cat whose regular rounds of four adoring families add greatly to his girth, and whose efforts to slim down backfire when the feline of his dreams states a preference for ""really well-covered types."" Romance is again in the air in ""The Happiest Woodlouse,"" when a wimp named Walter finally musters his courage and wins the heart of his lady-love Marilyn by saving her from being a bird snack (she promptly goes ""weak at the knees, all fourteen of them""). King-Smith's penchant for P.G. Woodhouse-like names is in high gear throughout, from a pair of soon-to-be-parent mice named Ethel and Hedley to upper-crust feline fancier Colonel Barclay-Lloyd. With a wink at Oscar Wilde, the prize for best title goes to the waggish ""The Excitement of Being Ernest,"" in which an affable mutt faces down the snobs at the village dog show and walks off with top honors. Terry's art, unfortunately, tends to caricature the animals in a manner at odds with King-Smith's genial prose; the crude depiction of Babe is especially disappointing. Although the pictures dull its luster, this upbeat medley is still a treat for animal lovers of all ages. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)