By Michele Landsberg
Updated February 22, 1991 at 05:00 AM EST

Puss is a rogue, a con man, and a trickster. Generations of children have relished the naughtiness of his rags-to-riches story. Now, sharp graphic design and Fred Marcellino’s imaginative paintings have made this classic feline fairy tale all the more appealing.

In Puss in Boots, Marcellino’s richly detailed, almost cinematically lively illustrations, the cat is a very feline yet oddly human creature who strides about on two legs, dressed only in a pair of boots, cunningly plotting to bring his orphaned young master wealth and happiness.

The master, a youngest son, is a bit of a schmo — blond, good-looking, but dim. Happily, he follows Puss’ orders and ends up marrying the king’s daughter and owning the wealthy Ogre’s castle.

Marcellino wittily plays with unexpected angles, and his picture placement is often surprising. These fresh techniques, plus the marvelously expressive faces and bodies of Marcellino’s characters, suffuse the story with energy and humor. And Puss is the star: wily, brave, now savagely pouncing on a mouse, now languidly leaning on his elbow in sardonic amusement at the gullibility of the king. Clever Puss. Lucky readers. A+

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