Preserve the jacket at all costs, for on it begins a remarkable visual sequence that continues inside: A bearded man in the costume of a Renaissance dandy flourishes a plumed quill pen and an inkwell shaped like a boot; on the title page, three mice are climbing over the boot, sitting near blank parchment; on the verso, a pool of ink is flowing from the overturned boot, and tiny black tracks scurry off the edge of the page. This pictorial mini-drama perfectly symbolizes the richness and mischievous wit of the Italian story tradition, distilled here in 12 of 20 elegant retellings from Vittorini's Old Italian Tales (1958, o.p.). There are fables, pourquoi and cautionary tales, stories of lightning wit and Solomonic wisdom, and cognates of ""Cinderella"" and ""The Three Sillies,"" couched in the unhurried, slightly formal prose of a master storyteller. Utterly distinctive art by GrandPrâ€š (who illustrated Jennifer Armstrong's Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat, 1993) encompasses a virtuosic range of effects, from portraits as rigidly posed as the faces on playing cards to an explosion of rats fleeing a cat in a centrifugal double-spread composition. Every character's face is strikingly individual right down to the curl of a lip. Her palette is centered on a seemingly infinite range of shades of purple and orange, from deep blue-violet to pale pinky-lavender, and rich russet to golden peach. Regrettably, the graceful introduction from the 1958 edition, enumerating sources from the Decameron to the late 19th century, has not been reprinted; included is an affectionate foreword by Vittorini's son.