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by Kirby Larson & illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 2000
ISBN: 0-8234-1473-6
Publisher: Holiday House

This tale tells of how a crabby old woman was transformed into, if not the epitome of sweetness, at least a pleasingly tart character, while a delight in language is evident everywhere throughout the book. Griselda is the crab's name. She lives alone and is known far and wide as having a tongue that smote its victims like a bullwhip. Of the Lord Mayor: “A donkey on two legs is still a donkey.” Of her neighbors: “At least my words are not all vine and no fruit.” Still, her loneliness hurts, but there was nothing for it until Griselda curbed her grumping. “Her tongue had nettled too many for too long. Even the village priest left her out of his prayers.” One night, an old woman wearing a lovely kerchief knocks on her door and asks for shelter. Griselda grudgingly complies and is given the scarf the next morning in return. She is told the scarf is magic, but will hear none of it. Yet, as she makes her rounds in town, ready to berate all and sundry, nothing but kind words pass her lips: “Your kind compliment is nearly as delicious as your bread,” or “My aches and pains vanish when I meet an old friend.” People are astounded by the change (as is Griselda, who can’t believe what she is saying, and is none too happy about it), but they are ready to accept her into their lives. And when they come to pay visits the next day, Griselda greets them with warmth and politeness, even though she has lost the scarf. She still finds time for a little sass—of the mayor helping her gather eggs: “Two heads are better than one. Even if one is a cabbagehead.” The antique turns of phrase sound like music when read aloud, and who can say the message is not a good one to repeat: It’s as easy to be wickedly funny as wickedly mean. Litzinger’s artwork, with its pastel shades, lovely patterning, and homespun characters, is an added bonus (The Old Woman and Her Pig, 1993). (Picture book. 4-8)