Kathy Price, , illus. by Andrew Glass. . Clarion, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-618-04076-6

First-time author Price spices up a standard with her Cajun-flavored take on The Bremen Town Musicians. "Come first cockcrow tomorrow, we boils your hooves for backfat and for soap!" a farmer tells his mule. Glass's (The Legend of Strap Buckner: A Texas Tale) signature illustrations depict the craggy creature in a clumsy gallop toward New Orleans and freedom; the mule's bulging ribs, prickly coat and knobby knees stand out against a crisp white background. Soon, the fellow meets an old bloodhound, an aging rooster and a decrepit cat, all about to be killed by their owners. The somewhat belabored encounters end with the mule convincing each animal to join his band, and a kind of refrain follows: "Sho' nuff?" they each ask; "As grass is green, sho' nuff," answers the mule. In this faithful retelling, the group comes upon a hideout, but the thieves here feast upon "gumbo ya-ya, couché-couché... [and] a jug of wild persimmon brew" and flee when the animals sing for their supper. Glass uses a series of vignettes drawn diagonally across a spread to trace the path of the ringleader as he diminishes in size when confronted by the cat, bitten by the hound and kicked by the mule and sent soaring off the page. Safe at last, the animals abandon their Bourbon Street dream and settle in. While the banter is verbose, Price crafts a rollicking narrative with a Southern twang that trips off the tongue, and Glass comes up with some memorable characters. Ages 5-8 (Apr.)