cover image Advice to Little Girls

Advice to Little Girls

Mark Twain, illus. by Vladimir Radunsky. Enchanted Lion (Consortium, dist.), $14.95 (24p) ISBN 978-1-59270-129-2

Radunsky’s (You?) ink flourishes and adorable, lumpy figures steal the stage from Twain’s essay, printed in a typewritten font and clipped to the pages like notes. The essay parodies the etiquette books of Twain’s time, counseling deviousness over savagery. “If you have nothing but a rag-doll... while one of your more fortunate little playmates has a costly China one, you should treat her with a show of kindness nevertheless.” Radunsky’s paintings don’t portray the tension between thought and deed; they’re all id. The rag-doll owner heaves her doll high above her head, ready to smash it over the head of the other girl (“And you ought not to attempt to make a forcible swap with her unless your conscience would justify you in it”). Another girl puts a furious pink tongue out at a large-bosomed matron, who responds in kind. Scribbly ink figures litter the margins of the golden pages; period costumes offer the only note of social restraint. It’s less readaloud than objet d’art, but the descendants of the girls to whom the essay was originally addressed will recognize themselves. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)