A folkish tale to equal The Piney Woods Peddler--in a more modern, less mock-rustic vernacular--with wry, witty, pinpoint drawings (think Joseph Schindelman) by a Czech artist making his American debut, ""There once was a boy who lived all alone. No father, no mother, no sister, no brother. Not even a pet. All he had were the clothes he wore and an old tin cup filled with beans."" He sits on a barrel, in the middle of an empty lot, in the center of a city like New York. And, we hear, he's now down to his last bean: ""When I eat that bean. . . I'll have nothing left but the cup. . . . It's time for me to find a job."" No job is to be had; but each night the boy begs some food and a place to sleep (""I'm all by myself. No father, no mother, no sister, no brother""). And each night finds him a little better, and a little worse, off. A rat eats his bean, so he's presented with the rat; a cat eats the rat, so he gets the cat. But his nightly meals also get sparser and sparser. When he has a dog (""that scared the cat that ate the rat that ate the very last bean I had""), his shelter is a blacksmith's barn, his dinner gravy and biscuit crumbs Then, inevitably but unforeseeably, his fortune turns: with a donkey (""that kicked the dog that scared the cat. . .""), he fetches up at a small farmhouse; the farmer has at least lots of beans; and he tells the boy how to make them last. . . by planting half the cup, and then planting and planting again. (The last we see, he's above his elbows, mid-city, in beans.) A distinctive conjunction of writerly and artistic imagination, oral and visual story-telling finesse.