Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hidden Classic #6: The Devil's Storybook

This charming little book is full of witty stories about the Devil, who is portrayed as a short-tempered trickster always trying to stir up trouble. Sometimes the Devil gets the results he wants, other times the people he's trying to deceive fool him instead. All the tales have a subtle moral, mostly about the consequence of choices or desires, and a lesson about human nature.And several are really, really funny.

Natalie Babbitt was born and grew up in Ohio. She spent large amounts of time in those early years reading fairy tales and myths, and drawing. Her mother, an amateur landscape and portrait painter, provided early art lessons and saw to it that there was always enough paper, paint, pencils, and encouragement. In those days, Ms. Babbitt wanted only to be an illustrator. She spent a lot of time drawing at Laurel School in Cleveland and went on to major in studio art at Smith College.

As befits Babbitt's early training as an artist, a suitably wicked but hilarious drawing accompanies each tale.

But don't just take my word for it! Check out these credentials.....

"A masterful Devil's advocate, Natalie Babbitt presents ten brief testimonials to Satan's unflagging gusto for dirty tricks. Paunchy and well past his prime, this Prince of Darkness is no Superdemon."--Starred review, School Library Journal

"High on my list is The Devil's Storybook by Natalie Babbitt. This Devil is not dire; he is a scheming practical joker and comes to earth often when he is restless, to play tricks on clergymen, goodwives, poets, and pretty girls."--Jean Stafford, The New Yorker

"[Babbitt's] Devil is a cultured fellow who drinks cider, reads novels and gives concerts for the damned. He also has a sense of humor, frequently employed at human expense. What he lacks, however, is real malevolence. Parents who are concerned about their children's reading matter will be relieved to see that this book has virtually no violence, making it a tame match for the average cartoon - or, for that matter, Grimm's fairy tales." Laurel Graeber, The New York Times

There's also a very nice review at The Excelsior File.

Association for Childhood Education International
Booklist, starred review
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Children's Book Review Service
Elementary School Library Collections, selected choice
Horn Book Magazine, starred review
Kirkus Reviews, starred review
New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal
, starred review
Wilson Library Bulletin

American Library Association Notable Children's Books
Children's Book Council Children's Choices
Horn Book Magazine Fanfare List
National Book Awards Finalist
New York Times Notable Children's Books of the Year
School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
School Library Journal, Best of the Best Books for Children

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