cover image THE LITTLE RED HEN


Domain Public, Public Domain, . . S&S, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-85962-5

This photo-illustrated retelling of "The Little Red Hen" stays faithful to the traditional plot, but pictures its lazy barnyard characters playing pool and other human games, in a Wegman-like treatment. "One day the Little Red Hen found some grains of wheat. 'Look, look!' she clucked. 'Who will help me plant this wheat?' " A black-spotted duck, a potbellied pig sporting a baseball cap and a sloe-eyed white cat catch some rays in the yard; each responds, "Not I." On harvest day, the duck, pig and cat busily play cards; as the bespectacled hen grinds the wheat and rolls the dough, they watch a pig movie ("Hairy Trotter") and play checkers with bottle caps. After the animals gamble the days away, the hen refuses to share her home cooking. South African illustrator Downard, making his debut, works in photo collage. He manipulates close-ups of an actual hen, duck, pig and cat, adding human apparel and awkwardly bending wings to resemble arms; the ambitious hen dons rubber boots and totes a shovel as she goes to plant the grain. While the story's question-and-answer format is well known, the layout fails to serve it well. The animals are pictured when the hen asks them her questions ("Who will help me make this flour into dough?"), but their "Not I" responses appear without them; a reader has to turn back to a previous spread to see who's doing the talking. Other editions of this favorite nursery story better serve the tale of the unappreciated baker. All ages. (Mar.)