Rukhsana Khan, Rukshana Khan, , illus. by R. Gregory Christie. . Viking, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-670-03583-0

Saba has always been afraid of the bossy chickens that chase her through the courtyard of her family's Pakistani home: "Bony beaks, razor claws, with glittery eyes that wonder, wonder as they watch me, how easy it would be to make me scream." One day, after washing in the bathhouse (to which she runs to avoid the chickens), Saba encounters what she thinks is a curled-up snake. Khan (The Roses in My Carpets) imagines Saba's quick thinking as she comes up with a strategy to deal with the perceived menace. However, lengthy chunks of rhetorical questions ("Is it watching? Waiting till I'm close enough to bite?") and fragments of self-talk ("I have to trap the snake. Forget about my fear") weaken the tension of the standoff. Christie's (Only Passing Through) paintings temper the fear factor with warmly hued, semi-abstract backgrounds of oranges, reds and pinks. Playing with proportion, the artist gives Saba an oversize head, all the better to convey the expressiveness of the girl's large eyes. Noteworthy for its portrayal of the accoutrements of another culture, this work also redirects easily recognizable feelings into a readily shared message about self-reliance and courage. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)