Wallace follows up his first volume of reillustrated Kipling pourquois tales (2013) with its companion.
Limpid mixed-media paintings depict Painted Jaguar lecturing the Stickly-Prickly Hedgehog (a tiny ball of spines), Tegumai the Neolithic man thigh-deep in the river lamenting his broken spear, and the Cat that walked by himself going deep into the Wet Wild Woods. Following the format of the earlier volume, one full-page painting opens each story, and then three more appear within, sometimes occupying a whole page and sometimes stretching across the tops of two and straddling the gutter. Appropriately for this illustrated book of stories, he focuses the cover on the pieces of birch bark from “How the First Letter Was Written” and “How the Alphabet Was Made,” held by Taffy Metallumai and her daddy; on the wraparound rear cover are Cat, Hedgehog and King Crab, all staring solemnly out at readers. Detailed illustrator’s notes explain Wallace’s approach, story by story, revealing connections among them and providing background information. He plants a smiling “wild thing” on Taffy’s Neolithic cave wall in homage to Sendak and uses pencil crayon, pastel pencil and chalk to “capture the scorching sun of a desert country” in another story. Glorious as the illustrations are, they complement rather than undercutting Kipling’s rolling lines: “But…when the moon gets up and night comes, he is the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to him.”
A triumph. (Short stories. 5 & up)