cover image Kancil and the Crocodiles: A Tale from Malaysia

Kancil and the Crocodiles: A Tale from Malaysia

Noreha Yussof Day. Simon & Schuster, $16 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80954-5

In this Malaysian folktale, illustrated in jungle-hot shades like tomato-red and emerald, two tiny creatures provoke a mob of crocodiles. Mouse deer Kancil and tortoise Kura-Kura crave fruit from ""a rambutan tree on the other side of the river,"" but the crocs block their way. So self-assured Kancil develops a scheme. On the pretense of counting party guests for the forest king, he tricks the lizards into forming a scaly row and crosses the river on their backs. Unfortunately, he brags about his feat before he and Kura-Kura return to their starting point-and here the story ends. (Talk about burning bridges.) In Day's telling, the mouse deer mocks the crocodiles for their greed, yet pays the price for his own; the polite tortoise is guilty by association. Teckentrup (Coyote Makes Man) contributes intensely colorful cut-paper illustrations, thereby enlivening this conventional tale of trickery. Her collages suggest bamboo, snakeskin and crocodile-skin textures, all saturated with humid colors; her midday sun, concentric circles in yellow and cantaloupe orange, is surrounded by tropical flowers, tree trunks and dangling vines. Kancil and Kura-Kura, meek cutouts in grocery-bag brown, sometimes get lost amid so much foliage, but Day supplies them with conversational voices and distinct personalities. Ages 3-7. (Oct.)