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BEAUTY AND THE SERPENT by Barbara Ann Porte Kirkus Star


Thirteen Tales of Unnatural Animals

by Barbara Ann Porte & illustrated by Rosemary Feit Covey

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-689-84147-7
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

The author follows Hearsay: Strange Tales from the Middle Kingdom (1998) with a similar set of original stories and reworked folk tales. There are considerably more than the subtitle’s 13, as Porte is fond of embedding stories within stories; these feature an array of exotic and (outwardly) familiar creatures, from a Japanese fox wife to a rooster with rattlesnake blood and a puppy who really is from hell. Younger children will be entertained by the traditional “Haunted House” (“ ‘Hey, guy, you still gonna be here when Stella comes?’ ”) and an orphan’s happy discovery that cats really do live in escalators (listen closely the next time you ride one). The title story, in which a cobra tattoo nearly kills a teenager, is one of several others that will engage older readers and listeners. Most of the stories are related to a teenage audience by Lavinia Drumm, a school librarian who, being 6’1” tall, with a taste for colorful clothing and an unspecified foot problem (a cloven hoof, perhaps?) is herself a grandly exotic presence. They are illustrated with dark wood engravings of ominous, often toothy figures with deep eyes. Ever a talented talespinner, Porte is in top form here, and even non-librarians are going to want to hear more from Ms. Drumm. (Short stories. 9-14)