cover image Fables Aesop Never Wrote

Fables Aesop Never Wrote

Robert Kraus. Viking Children's Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-670-85630-5

Familiarity with Aesop's originals seems a prerequisite for tackling this off-kilter collection, which offers goofy but seldom hilarious twists on classic moral tales. In Kraus's (How Spider Saved Halloween) version, the hard-working ants labor while the grasshopper fiddles-and becomes a rock star. A fox dresses as a chicken and sneaks into the coop, but is eaten by another fox. And the wolf in sheep's clothing tries on a police uniform and is arrested for impersonating an officer. You get the idea. Morals conclude each tale, some practical (``Do not pretend to be what you are not''), some silly (``Don't judge a duck by its waddle''). Kraus illustrates these paranoid parables with unfortunate collage compositions: clumsy paper cutouts, glittery material, line drawings and photos seem tossed haphazardly onto an glossy black background, and clash with the placement of the text. The best that can be of these fables is that they encourage readers to see the humor in life's injustices and ironies. Ages 5-up. (Oct.)