cover image What a Truly Cool World

What a Truly Cool World

Julius Lester. Scholastic Press, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-590-86468-8

""I allow my imagination free play here,"" writes Lester in his introduction to this fresh interpretation of ""How God Made the Butterflies,"" a creation tale he retold more traditionally in 1969 in Black Folktales. An African-American deity looks down with satisfaction on the world he has just created, seated in a lounge chair in his computer- equipped, heavenly digs. Enter Shaniqua, ""the angel in charge of everybody's business,"" who announces: ""I don't want to hurt your feelings or nothing like that, but what you made looks kind of boring."" In an attempt to make his world less drab, God snips off the tops of trees to create grass and bushes and sings into being flowers of many colors. But the blooms are lonely. Since God is too hoarse, Shaniqua takes over to supply companions for the flowers, and her song causes the angels, stars and planets to cry tears of various hues, which turn into tiny, colorful butterflies. The banter between Lester's characters more than makes up for a few leaps in logic. Cepeda's (Gracias, the Thanksgiving Turkey) oil paintings, with their vivid palette and hip particulars (Shaniqua sports a beehive 'do, electric-blue evening dress, pointy-toed orange shoes and luminous green wings), bring a funky dimension to this playfully outlandish depiction of how the world came to be. Ages 4-7. (Feb.)