Who but Bill Peet would cast a flock of vultures as a decrepit old lion's best friends? Lion Eli, reduced to eating leftovers, is plagued by the vultures' squawking presence--until, roused by an especially ear-splitting scream, he discovers that the poor bird is screaming for help, and he drives off the jackal attacking her. Now, to his disgust, the worshipful vultures follow him everywhere. ""In some way,"" they tell him, ""we old birds might prove useful to you some day."" No sooner said than a band of spear-carrying Zoobangas enter on the seedy lion's trail--and the vultures, persauding him to play dead, take up their customary corpseside watch. Everybody likes to see hunters foiled, see losers win, see a promise kept, see baddies do good or uglies look good--which is, collectively, why Peet's latest doesn't have to be his best (they aren't always) to win friends and please lots of people. What's lacking is the single compelling image that makes a book like Buford the Little Bighorn memorable.