These brisk retellings of Jataka tales begin, typically, ""once upon a time when Brahmadatta ruled Benares"" and end with rhymed morals, such as the monkeys' chanted warning, ""Flattering, lying, stealing, killing,/ The ways of men are really chilling!/ If in a palace men do these,/ We're safer here among the trees."" In addition to preserving more of the cultural origins and didactic flavor of the tales, DeRoin has selected some of the more earthy ones; it's hard to ignore the lesson of the overproud dung beetle who challenges an elephant to battle only to be squashed by a monumental dropping. This is, in all ways, a forthcoming selection, and although some of the tales (""The Stupid Monkeys,"" ""The Turtle Who Talked Too Much"" . . .) will be familiar from Ellen Babbitt's collections, duplication is minimal. In spite of the cramped looking presentation -- small margins, brown ink used for both print and pictures -- this gives new life to these fables which (so DeRoin believes, and we agree) are more relevant than Aesop.