cover image How Animals Saved the People: Animal Tales from the South

How Animals Saved the People: Animal Tales from the South

. HarperCollins Publishers, $17.99 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-688-16253-5

Tricksters, sages, victims and heroes number among the spirited menagerie featured in this collection of eight folktales from the late gifted singer and raconteur. Rooted in a number of cultures, including Appalachian, African-American and Native American, the stories include many kid-pleasing standouts. In ""Waiting for BooZoo,"" a man determined to ""whup"" a gigantic black cat that haunts his house does anything but; two faithful dogs save their hermit master from a terrifying ""piney-woods monster"" in ""The Poopampareno""; and a hungry buzzard's patience (""I been sittin' here for days waiting for somethin' to drop dead so I can have my supper. But I tell you, there ain't nothin' falling out of the sky for me. I think I'm gonna starve"") is rewarded in ""Buzzard and Chicken Hawk."" There's even a rollicking retelling of Br'er Rabbit, who introduces Miz Gator to ""Mr. Trouble"" (""How Miz Gator Lost Her Pea-Green Suit""), and a Creole tale in which Trouble also figures prominently. The author's nimble use of dialect and vernacular (defined in a glossary) lend the succinct three- to four-page retellings an authenticity and spunk. Ransome's (The Wagon) full-bleed, spry watercolors open each vignette, and a generous sprinkling of spot art breaks up the text. A few of the paintings are uncharacteristically murky, but all ably capture the traits of the memorable characters, the rural Southern setting and the pervasive humor of the entries. All ages. (Feb.)