The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen's humorous retelling of The Three Billy Goats Gruff beckons the reader into a fantasy world with a blend of eerie art and cheeky narration. The duo (Sam and Dave Dig a Hole; Extra Yarn) maintains the structure of the original story--a hungry troll lives beneath a bridge and hopes to devour a trio of passing goats--but adds their own delightful twists.

Barnett undercuts the troll's classic gruff demeanor with playful dialogue. After the first goat tricks the troll into letting him cross the bridge unscathed, the troll, who sports a white linen napkin around his neck, chuckles, "I can't believe I tricked that goat.... I'm so smart! And fun and handsome." He is equally pleased with himself after the second goat convinces him to wait for the "fatter and tastier" third brother. Upon seeing the final goat--who is enormous--the troll stammers, "Oh... Um... Wow. You're really big."

Klassen's art, in muted browns, blues and oranges, uses perspective, white space and small, intentional details to throw the troll's power into question. In the beginning, a zoomed-in focus on the troll's eyes and teeth emphasizes his alleged ferocity; later, the third goat's massive, bowed head takes up most of the page as it peers down at the troll. Klassen's signature oblong eyes reveal the troll and the goats' emotions with subtle shifts of the pupil, and the characters sometimes gaze directly at readers.

Barnett and Klassen's playful retelling gives a modern tone to the fairy tale and offers young readers the opportunity to muse about the story's conclusion. --Kieran Slattery, freelance reviewer, teacher, co-creator of Gender Inclusive Classrooms

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