Another colorful, enthralling excursion into our cultural heritage from the author and illustrator of Lives of the Musicians (1993). Krull has selected 20 (dead) literary figures that are -- or should be -- familiar to young people. All, with the exception of Lady Murasaki, are European or American, and most are from the last two centuries. Arranged in order of birth, each gets one of Hewitt's polished, huge-headed portraits, a three-to-six-page biography, and a handful of""Bookmarks,"" miscellaneous notes in smaller type. It's hard to stop reading; if the chapter titles aren't enticement enough (""Ugly Duckling or Little Mermaid? Hans Christian Andersen""), the first sentences (""Robert Louis Stevenson spent his whole life either ill in bed or out having thrilling adventures"") will be. Krull expertly sets the hook with well-turned phrases and arrays of tasty facts: Frances Hodgson Bumett owned a dollhouse with a working shower; Jane Austen ""was a world-class aunt""; Zora Neale Hurston studied voodoo practices. Sources are not specifically cited, but the author inserts sufficient notes of caution (regarding Langston Hughes's homosexuality, for instance) to establish credibility, and an excellent, nonscholarly bibliography is appended. This may not be the only book you'll need on these writers -- for one thing, their quirks get more attention than their works -- but you'll have to look far to find a better first one.