Ursula Jones, , illus. by Russell Ayto. . Holt, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-7205-1

When the witch's three children enter the park, the pigeons and squirrels know trouble is coming. The prophecy proves correct: when the toy boat belonging to their friend Gemma capsizes in the pond, the Eldest One helpfully changes her into a frog so she can swim out to rescue it. But the Eldest One hasn't learned how to reverse the spell, so the Middle One steps up to do her part. A series of transformations produces a palace, footmen, a familiar pumpkin-shaped coach and, of course, a princess, whom the Middle One orders to kiss the frog. When this plan backfires, the Little One pulls out the "one bit of magic" she knows: she yells for "Mommy!" Jones's debut contains some derivative elements, but along with them come amusing asides and a reassuring resolution. Ayto's (Cinderella and the Hot Air Balloon) quirky, angular art delivers much of the volume's humor. He adds the atmospheric details: when readers first see the witch's children, bats hover above them, spiders dangle from their clothing and assorted critters trail behind. His balloon-shaped pigeons visibly panic, and his transformed characters retain comical vestiges of their old selves. Kinetic and creatively skewed, these illustrations make the most of the slender tale. Ages 4-7. (Apr.)