cover image Twist in the Tail

Twist in the Tail

Mary Hoffman. Henry Holt & Company, $18.95 (72pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-5946-5

Two noted talents join forces to create an attractive, if not unique, collection of 10 folktales starring tricksters of land, sea and sky. The bulk of the stories, taken from Asia, Australia, North and South America and Africa, focus on bullies and braggarts who get their comeuppance (e.g., a fox who is proud of his quickness gets outsmarted by a slow but wily crab; a jackal king is overthrown after being tricked into revealing his true nature). Hoffman (Amazing Grace) departs from this theme toward the end of the volume with tales of pranksters who get away with, and even revel in, their bad behavior. The collection concludes with a pourquoi tale that seems out of sync with the rest of the stories. Although there is little in the style or substance of the retellings to evoke a sense of the tales' originating cultures, Hoffman chooses a uniformly clear, straightforward prose well-suited to capturing the attention of the target audience. Readers accustomed to Ormerod's (The Water Babies) soft watercolors may be surprised by these full-page and spot illustrations rendered with few, but sure, brushstrokes of bold, saturated color. Minimal source notes include several Internet sites, which are inaccessible or no longer in existence. A handsome volume, but one unlikely to stand out from the myriad other animal story collections. Ages 4-7. (Sept.)