cover image Trail of Stones

Trail of Stones

Anthony Browne, Gwen Strauss. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $9.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-80582-3

Strauss explores ``the theme of metamorphosis in fairy tales'' in this stunning collection of 12 dramatic monologues by familiar fairy tale characters at a moment of crisis or confrontation. The voices in these poems are both strong and complex, and the themes the characters explore--fear, loneliness, shame, jealousy--are as stark as Browne's evocative black-and-white illustrations that seem to reveal the characters' souls. We see Hansel and Gretel's father seated underneath Edvard Munch's famous woodcut, telling how the pebbles he gave his son ``rattle in his dreams.'' We hear the wolf imagining how Red Riding Hood ``will have the youngest skin / he has ever touched, her fingers unfurling / like fiddle heads in spring.'' Like Anne Sexton's ``Cinderella,'' Strauss's poems are best suited to an adult audience, but they offer readers new wine in old bottles, a fresh view of familiar territory in language that has depth and power. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)