cover image The Bear Whose Bones Were Jezebel Jones

The Bear Whose Bones Were Jezebel Jones

Bill Grossman. Dial Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1742-8

Although amiably illustrated and bouncily rhymed, this tall tale ends on a disturbing note when, after a brief separation, a bear skin and its bones are rejoined. At a wooded lake, a bear takes off his skin ""To rinse off his bones./ Skipping along came Jezebel Jones."" A little girl, Jezebel, climbs into the skin and goes to school, where she realizes she is trapped in the furry brown coat and unable to make any sound but ""GRRRRR."" Jezebel searches for the rightful owner ""In a fox's lair./ In the stall of a mare./ In the hole of a hare who was scared by her stare."" Finally, an understanding dog brings to her the bear's bones, which reclaim their exterior. Allen (Two by Two by Two) leaves it to the reader to imagine bones walking outside their skin. He focuses instead on the comic possibilities of the ursine Jezebel, whose wide-eyed friends and family run away in fear. Yet the lightly humorous art contradicts a narrative that borders on grotesque. Grossman (Tommy at the Grocery Store) maintains a folksy tone, but conjures fantasies of a swimming skeleton and an empty animal shape--a possibly horrific image for children (who may prefer the three bears to one boneless one). Ages 4-8. (Sept.)