What happens when Sleeping Beauty wakes up and decides that she’d rather live in Prince Charming’s castle? She impetuously rides off with him, leaving her three ladies in waiting and the bewildered townsfolk staring after her. Castle Waiting, written and illustrated by Linda Medley, tells the story of the motley group that makes a haven of the abandoned castle. There is Jain, a pregnant woman fleeing her husband; Destrier, a horse-headed knight; Rackham, a beaked bachelor merchant; Sister Peace, the bearded nun; and Prudence, Patience, and Plenty, Sleeping Beauty’s abandoned ladies-in-waiting. The book is full of adventure stories juxtaposed with domestic cares. The classic line drawings, wonderfully evocative and lighthearted, suit the story perfectly. It is sprinkled with subtle references to the Grimms and Andersen but is very much its own charming, quirky tale.
Have you ever wondered how many words you know? Or the record number of languages on person has mastered? A LITTLE BOOK OF LANGUAGE (Yale Univ., $17), by linguist and author David Crystal, is an excellent introduction to linguistics. Crystal’s discussion is clear and comprehensive, presenting each discrete concept in a concise chapter. He begins in the womb with a baby’s first exposure to the rhythms of its native tongue, progresses to language acquisition, and by the end has covered sociolinguistics, etymology and grammar, and has explained the capricious spelling rules of the English language. Crystal even brings linguistics into the 21st century with discussions on Internet etiquette, texting language, and slang. A Little Book of Language offers a more complete understanding of one of the quintessentially human characteristics. (The answers, by the way, are about 40,000 and 58.)
Massive, beautiful, clever, and deadly, the tiger has long been an object of fascination, fixed in our collective imagination. In THE TIGER (Vintage, $15), John Vaillant captures this primal awe and brings you into the minds of both a tiger and the hunters who subsist alongside it on the taiga. The book takes place in the village of Sobolonye in the southeastern Primorye region of Russia, which, though bounded by Russia, China, North Korea, and the Sea of Japan, has remained an island of wilderness. In recounting the gripping saga of one tiger’s devastating effect on the people of that region, Vaillant has crafted the perfect nonfiction book—a seamless blend of fact, masterful descriptions of the land and the people, and elegant storytelling.