cover image The Lonely Lioness and the Ostrich Chicks

The Lonely Lioness and the Ostrich Chicks

Verna Aardema. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-86934-4

Salvaged from Aardema's out-of-print Tales for the Third Ear, this Masai tale shines as a standalone offering, thanks partly to Heo's (The Green Frogs) fresh, invigorating oil and pencil illustrations. A cubless, lonely lioness snatches four chicks from a mother ostrich. The distraught mother seeks help from a gazelle, hyena, jackal and finally a mongoose, who tricks the lioness into turning away from the chicks long enough for the ostrich mother to take them back. Aardema's use of crisp dialogue and Masai sound effects (a purr is ""irtil-irtil"") creates fertile ground for enthusiastic storytelling. Heo's unique style brings a great energy, too. Almost hieroglyphic in their eschewal of perspective, her paintings are a pastiche of likable animal characters and seemingly tornado-tossed details splattered across a stylishly distressed background. This pairing of talents is ideal for such a frolicsome tale. Ages 3-8. (Oct.)