cover image Toads and Diamonds

Toads and Diamonds

. Greenwillow Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-13680-2

Selfishness gets its comeuppance and the punishment is toads in a snappy retelling of Perrault's fairy tale. The folksy, dense paintings by Lobel (previously teemed with Huck for Princess Furball) give an edgy immediacy to the fantastical story of Renee, a sweet maiden with an evil step-family. For aiding an old woman, Renee is rewarded with a magical gift: jewels and flowers will drop from her lips whenever she speaks. Her stepsister Francine goes in search of the same blessing. Lazy and shamelessly cruel to animals and people, Francine finds herself cursed with a profusion of snakes and toads instead of diamonds. The almost nauseating heaps of scaly creatures seem the perfect offspring of Francine's sour visage, and the plain, peasant-like Renee is a refreshingly ordinary heroine. When she wins the heart of a handsome prince, it's clear he loves her for her noble heart, not her appearance nor her jewels. Huck adds a little innovation of her own, too: the blessing and curse are to last only ""as long as there will be a need for it,"" and while Francine seems doomed forever, Renee is reprieved on her wedding day from a lifetime of issuing oral projectiles. Ages 5-up. (Sept.)