cover image Up the Chimney

Up the Chimney

Margaret Hodges. Holiday House, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1354-6

Two sisters meet opposite fates in this belabored retelling of an old English tale. When their parents' bag of money is stolen, the first daughter sets out to look for work. Along the way she performs a series of thoughtful deeds that will later reward her. An oven filled with bread says, ""Little girl, little girl, take us out, take us out. We have been baking seven years...,"" so she removes the bread; she similarly relieves a cow of its milk and a tree of its burden of fruit (they, too, have been waiting seven years). When a witch takes her in as a servant, the girl discovers her parents' bag of money and heads home with it, protected on her journey by the same tree, cow and oven. Up to this point, Hodges's (Saint George and the Dragon) version is engaging (though the seven-year wait goes unexplained), and Harvey's (Zilla Sasparilla and the Mud Baby) energetic full- or half-page illustrations softly depict the characters in pastel colors. The girl leaps with ponytail flying, the hook-nosed witch menaces in an eerily flowing cape. But in the second half, even though the wealth is presumably restored with the return of the purse, the book repeats the same actions with the second daughter. She, however, disdains to take the bread out of the oven, milk the cow or pick the fruit, thus ensuring her capture by the witch. The text even repeats the same wordy incantations used by the witch and the first daughter, resulting in a tale that feels forced and overlong. Ages 4-8. (Nov.)