cover image The Star Counters

The Star Counters

Ida Luttrell. Tambourine Books, $15 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-688-12149-5

After a fine opening premise, this story dissolves from a lack of focus. A greedy king, certain that he owns the stars, counts them each night to make sure none is stolen. Exhausted, he delegates the task, successively, to a turtle, a fox and, finally, a cow. Spying on the cow as she drinks from a pond, the king thinks she is swallowing the reflected stars. Maddened, he falls into the pond, is rescued by the cow and then runs after some shooting stars, never to be seen again. Loose ends unravel the narrative: ``So Fox counted the stars when they came out that night''; but five lines later ``he refused to count them,'' and in another four lines he tells the king how many he counted. Why does the cow's weight gain alarm the king? Why does she pause, five stars from the finish line, each night? Russian illustrator Pretro, in her American debut, contributes quirky, loose watercolors vaguely reminiscent of Chagall in their flatness and composition; a picture of the cow as she sits plucking a lute, clad in an Elizabethan-style dress with a veil supported by her horns, is particularly ripe. This evidence of wit, however, is not strong enough to redeem the muddled text. Ages 4-up. (Apr.)