cover image Rosie's Fiddle

Rosie's Fiddle

Phyllis Root. HarperCollins, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-12852-4

Dueling musicians make their fiddle strings sizzle in this cornfield showdown based on an American folktale (one popularized in the Charlie Daniels Band's ""The Devil Went Down to Georgia""). Unsmiling Rosie O'Grady has a rep for being able to ""out-fiddle the devil himself."" So she's ready for the arrival of a guy with horns under his fedora, pitchforks on his tie and a tail poking out from under his brick-red suit. The two agree to a best-of-three musical challenge, and Rosie wagers her soul for the devil's golden fiddle. Root, whose Aunt Nancy and Old Man Trouble also featured a test of wits with the devil, provides lively colloquial narration: the devil's first tune ""blew the feathers off Rosie's hens, and scattered the bare-naked chickens half across town,"" but Rosie's playing brings ""a soft little breeze [that] gathered the chickens and shooed them home."" The devil lures crows to eat Rosie's corn, and sets the townspeople to dancing ""whether they wanted to or not,"" but Rosie triumphs with a riff that boogies the devil into a puff of smoke. O'Malley (Cinder Edna; Roller Coaster) sets the scene with roiling clouds, teeteringly tall cornstalks and flapping chickens. He gives the devil a sly ""mean little smile"" and Rosie a stubborn jaw. The folksy prose and stormy spreads convey the tale's intensity-the only thing missing is a bluegrass soundtrack. Ages 5-up. (Mar.)