cover image This for That: 5

This for That: 5

Verna Aardema. Dial Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1553-0

In this humorous tale, revised from an entry in the author's 1973 collection Behind the Back of the Mountain, an opportunistic rabbit on an African savanna unrepentantly cons her friends. She gets Ostrich to locate some berry bushes, slyly devours all the fruit and blames Ostrich for the theft. Then, to make up for the ""missing"" berries, Rabbit demands one of Ostrich's feathers, which she exchanges for other valuables. In the finale, mildly disappointing because it shows a punishment but no lesson learned, the trickster receives a mighty kick from Ostrich, along with the moral: ""A lie may travel far, but the truth will overtake it."" Consummate storyteller Aardema (Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears) reworks this Tonga folktale with her trademark onomatopoeia-Rabbit eats berries ""lup, lup, lup""; Ostrich runs ""tuk-pik, tuk-pik."" Chess (Princess Gorilla and a New Kind of Water), using a tawny palette, crafts straw-yellow grasses, red-dirt roads and olive-green bushes, then tweaks her compositions with cagey details, such as giraffe-patterned tree trunks. She neatly frames the images in borders resembling woven reeds, and attires the guileful Rabbit in a clownish skirt of yellow-and-red feathers. As the action progresses, a golden sun sets to a red glow behind blue mountains, adding to this book's strong visual appeal. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)