After a fine opening premise, this story dissolves from a lack of focus. A greedy king, certain that he owns the stars, counts them each night to make sure none is stolen. Exhausted, he delegates the task, successively, to a turtle, a fox and, finally, a cow. Spying on the cow as she drinks from a pond, the king thinks she is swallowing the reflected stars. Maddened, he falls into the pond, is rescued by the cow and then runs after some shooting stars, never to be seen again. Loose ends unravel the narrative: ``So Fox counted the stars when they came out that night''; but five lines later ``he refused to count them,'' and in another four lines he tells the king how many he counted. Why does the cow's weight gain alarm the king? Why does she pause, five stars from the finish line, each night? Russian illustrator Pretro, in her American debut, contributes quirky, loose watercolors vaguely reminiscent of Chagall in their flatness and composition; a picture of the cow as she sits plucking a lute, clad in an Elizabethan-style dress with a veil supported by her horns, is particularly ripe. This evidence of wit, however, is not strong enough to redeem the muddled text. Ages 4-up. (Apr.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-A story that is not without interest, but that ultimately falls flat. Long ago, a greedy king thought he owned everything, including the stars, and he counted them each night to make sure none were stolen. When this task proves tedious, he goes in search of an official Star Counter of the Universe. The unsatisfactory appointees-turtle, fox, and cow-are given picturesque punishments. (The fox is locked up and fed a diet of boiled buzzard feathers.) The ending, however, is abrupt and somewhat thin. The king runs off to recover the falling stars and is never seen again. Pretro, in her first book published outside of Russia, creates pen-and-ink drawings that are sketchily washed with watercolor. Although her palette is mainly pastel, the pictures are bold and expressive. The king, with splashes of green and red highlighting his face, looks convincingly bad tempered. Larger collections, especially those with an interest in examples of illustration by international artists, may be interested in this title. For others, it is an adequate, but not necessary purchase.-Karen James, Louisville Free Public Library, KY
Convinced that he owns all he sees--including the stars in the sky--a covetous king hires a star counter to make sure no one steals his priceless possessions. His first employee, a turtle, can count only to 10; his next, a vain fox, refuses to count anything that may be more beautiful than he; finally, a gentle cow seems to do things quite properly. Unfortunately, not even perfection satisfies the greedy ruler. One night he accuses his royal counter of theft, claiming she consumed reflected stars when she drank from a pond. A glance upward at some shooting stars sends him into complete madness, and he runs off to search for his missing celestial bodies. Pretro's bright watercolor paintings are reminiscent of Louis Slobodkin's work ("Many Moons", 1943), though Pretro employs a much wider palette. Her facial expressions are particularly interesting--especially those of the miserly monarch. A comic look at obsession gone too far, this can be paired with Isaac B. Singer's "The Snow in Chelm" from "Zlateh the Goat" (1966) or a version of "The Golden Touch."