cover image The Crows of Pearblossom

The Crows of Pearblossom

Aldous Huxley, illus. by Sophie Blackall, Abrams, $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8109-9730-1

For Christmas 1944, the author of Brave New World wrote this story of a crow couple's battle with an egg-eating snake, giving it to his six-year-old niece, who provides an afterword (the tale was first published in 1967). Unsurprisingly, this is no cheery animal fable. "[E]very afternoon punctually at half past three," while Mr. Crow is working and Mrs. Crow is shopping, Rattlesnake slithers into their nest. "If there was an egg in the nest—which there generally was—he would swallow it in one mouthful, shell and all." Mrs. Crow discovers the snake and tells her husband to save their "darling eggs." Tricked into eating a heavy clay egg, the snake ends up as a clothesline, and Mrs. Crow happily breeds "four families of seventeen children each." Blackall (Pecan Pie Baby) pictures a lovely gnarled tree as the prolific family's residence, yet her unnerving watercolors of the glassy-eyed crows reinforce the story's sinister elements. With Huxley's mordant wit in ample supply, this tale will entertain literary novelty seekers; it's best suited for children who don't mind some darkness in their stories. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)