Eight animal tales highlighting the value of cleverness and the hazards of greed are retold in Williams’ signature breezy style.
In the most familiar, “The Monkey and the Crocodile,” she exonerates Crocodile (partially, at least) by endowing him with a nagging wife who demands Monkey’s heart. In other tales, a golden bangle tempts an unwary traveler into the jaws of a “Scrawny Old Tiger,” a kind “Golden Swan” ends up completely plucked after giving a feather to a needy but ungrateful woman, a canny rabbit convinces a “Foolish Lion” that a reflection at the bottom of a well is a rival lion, and, in the title story, a close if unlikely friendship that develops between a royal elephant and a stray dog survives a separation attempt. Grouped in sequential panels teeming with expressively drawn cartoon figures and framed within finely patterned borders, the illustrations glow with bright colors and brisk energy. Dropping in the occasional multisyllabic proper name for atmosphere and adding further zing with waggish side comments (“Maybe I could eat a reader instead!” mutters Crocodile’s disappointed wife), Williams relates each fable economically and keeps the tone lighthearted even in the face of fatal consequences.
Readers, wary or otherwise, could do far worse than dive into these witty, spirited renditions. (no source notes) (Graphic folktales. 8-11)