Leaping Beauty is a children's book that parents will almost certainly grab before their kids will. Why? Purely because of the star power of its author, Gregory Maguire, an endlessly entertaining and inventive writer whose novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, inspired a Tony Award-winning play.

But why should grownups have all the fun? Children will also love this hilarious new collection in which Maguire demonstrates his knack for turning classic tales inside out.

There's Little Red Robin Hood, for instance, which is not about that guy in tights in Sherwood Forest, or that little girl strolling through the woods with her picnic basket. Nope, in this case, the one in the hood is a robin who likes to pretend he's a superhero. While he is on his way to his grandmother's (who is living at a retirement village on the other edge of the forest), the robin is sidetracked when he hears a chickadee's distress call. What happens next is nothing like a fairy tale.

In "So What and the Seven Giraffes," a baby chimpanzee with an evil gorilla stepmother runs off to join the circus when said gorilla's plan to rub him out goes awry. Of course, evil stepmothers don't give up easily, and neither do young chimps training to be shot out of a cannon! The title tale concerns a beautiful young tadpole, born to the King and Queen of the Frogs. As in another story of similar name, our young heroine is cursed by a wicked fairy and rescued by another fairy's wish. The second fairy turns our tadpole into a serial crier a weeping beauty. How she gets from weeping to leaping is the point of the story, of course.

Ranging from wacky to silly, this wonderful compendium of literary magic will keep youngsters giggling. And as for you adults without any children, well, just tell the clerk you're buying the book for your niece or nephew. We won't tell.

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