cover image Can’t Scare Me!

Can’t Scare Me!

Ashley Bryan. S&S/Atheneum, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4424-7657-8

In Bryan’s folktale-style story, a boy is certain he’s above the rules, but he doesn’t suffer the usual comeuppance. Instead, he makes fools out of his enemies and earns his grandmother’s admiration. “Tanto, tanto, I’m wild and I’m free./ Grandma’s stories can’t scare me,” he crows, slipping away from his mother despite Grandma’s warnings about a two-headed giant and his three-headed brother. The tune the boy plays on his flute emboldens him further, and Bryan repeats it often (“Too-de-loo-de-loo-de-loot!”) as narrative punctuation. The boy stays calm when the three-headed giant catches him in a sack and tells his cook to fatten him up. Sure enough, the child’s flute and quick thinking are enough to outwit his captors. It’s the giant’s screechingly bad rendition of the boy’s tune that truly scares him: “His singing voice was worse/ Than any threat to eat him.” Bryan’s paintings have the warmth and substance of Diego Rivera murals, while the giants vibrate in phantasmagoric shades of magenta and lime. There’s never any doubt that the boy will prevail, and there’s something classically Homeric about his exploits. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)