cover image Clay Boy

Clay Boy

Mirra Ginsburg. Greenwillow Books, $17.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-14409-8

Run, run, as fast as you can--here comes the Gingerbread Man on steroids! Ginsburg's rambunctious adaptation of a Russian folktale introduces a little clay fellow who is fashioned by a lonely elderly couple, comes to life and starts wreaking havoc. ""I am here! I am hungry!"" the clay boy announces, and begins to devour everything in sight, including Grandma and Grandpa and their livestock. ""More! I want more!"" he cries, growing (as graduated type sizes demonstrate) ""bigger, and bigger, and bigger,"" until he's a giant, gulping down everything and everyone he meets. Finally, he's routed by a clever goat, who shatters the clay boy, releasing unharmed all those he's swallowed. It's an exuberant, larger-than-life tale, and Ginsburg (The King Who Tried to Fry an Egg on His Head) tells it with gusto, energizing her assured prose with the well-placed repetition (""thump, thump, thump"" go the big clay feet) that makes for a prime read-aloud. Smith's (Runnery Granary) paintings play up the story's ethnic roots with tidy, thatched-roof cottages and cheerful peasants, the women in babushkas, the men in flowing beards and Cossack shirts. His vision of the clay boy is deliciously creepy, too--the amorphous, omnivorous figure looks not unlike a plumped-up Boo Radley--and will no doubt deliver a mild dose of the shivers to delighted young audiences. Ages 5-up. (May)