Souhami (The Leopard's Drum, 1996, etc.) creates bold illustrations that have the look of cut-paper collage for this retelling of a Hindu tale from The Ramayana. Brave and good prince Rama should be happy--he's the king's favorite son, his wife is dear, his brother is his best friend, and everybody loves him--except his jealous stepmother. She arranges for Rama's exile to the dangerous, demon-ridden forest for 14 years. Wife and brother accompany Rama thence, and together the three establish peace and live a simple life. Enter Ravana, the ten-headed king of demons, who flies to India in his magic chariot to avenge his slain demons only to be instantly smitten with Rama's wife, Sita, whom he steals. The brothers search for Sita, enlisting the aid of Hanuman, the leader of the monkey army. In subsequent warfare the demons are defeated; Rama slays Ravana, is reunited with Sita, and returns to India, only to find that his father has died of grief. Rama is made king, ruling so wisely that the land becomes fruitful and free of evil. What sets this folktale apart from many others is the author's theatrical sense of timing; Souhami cues storytellers as to the inflections and pauses for suspense that will make this a story-hour favorite.