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by Aldous Huxley & illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: March 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8109-9730-1
Publisher: Abrams

Huxley’s story, his only children’s book and not meant for widespread publication, starts good and grim—just the thing to hold a young audience. Mrs. Crow’s eggs are mysteriously disappearing: 297 eggs a year, “a fresh egg every single day—except Sundays, of course, and public holidays.” The culprit is a rattlesnake that lives in a hole under her tree. “I’m having breakfast,” he explains with sinister meaning when she finally catches him in the act. Mrs. Crow suggests to Mr. Crow that he go down the hole and kill the snake. Mr. Crow demurs: “Your ideas are seldom good” (yes, touches of rudeness are sprinkled throughout). He consults the wise owl, who concocts a shrewd plan—without Mr. Crow’s input; “keep your beak shut and do exactly what I do,” spoken in a high tone—to fashion clay decoy eggs. The snake eats them, dies (after a lecture from Mrs. Crow) and is subsequently used as a clothesline for diapers. Though the book is handsomely designed, Blackall’s artwork, accomplished as it is, isn’t a snug fit. She captures the menace of the snake, but the crows are a different matter, with their dead, sharklike eyes, silly clothes and strange wings resembling spruce bows. Hair curlers hardly embody the shrew in Mrs. Crow, and Mr. Crow’s martini is just trivial. The story, however, is a powerful hymn to smarts, with unrepentant scorn for the greedy and the witless. (Picture book. 4-8)