cover image Aunt Nancy and Old Man Trouble

Aunt Nancy and Old Man Trouble

Phyllis Root. Candlewick Press (MA), $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56402-347-6

A quick-witted country woman uses reverse psychology to ward off a Mephistophelean visitor in this sprightly original folktale. Aunt Nancy is having one of those days: it's barely sunup and her spring has gone dry and she's lost her ""good luck three-legged wooden buffalo nickel."" Such misfortune must mean Old Man Trouble is nearby, and before long the Old Man--irritation personified--knocks on Aunt Nancy's log cabin door. The arrogant Mr. Trouble, hell-bent on making matters miserable, gets his comeuppance when sweet Aunt Nancy methodically tricks him into refurbishing her water supply. Root's (Sam, Who Was Swallowed by a Shark) yarn-spinning talents shine here, in a text laced with a mountain-folk vernacular. Such down-home phrases as ""Seat yourself and stay a spell,"" or ""faster than a firecracker on the Fourth of July"" add color and warmth. Parkins's (Sophie's Tom) sinister depiction of Old Man Trouble, with his row of crocodile-like teeth exposed through a black beard and needle-sharp nose, gives the story a bit of dastardly suspense. Expressive black-and-white silhouettes of the characters decorate each page of text, an inviting design element that complements Parkins's full-color, darkly hued oil paintings on the facing pages. Ages 5-8. (May)