Picks and Pans Review: Not Harry—but the Next Best Thing

UPDATED 12/22/2008 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/22/2008 at 01:00 AM EST

by J.K. Rowling

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Harry Potter fans will recognize one of the five fables in this intriguing collection—written and illustrated by Rowling to raise money for the children's charity she cofounded—as having first appeared in The Deathly Hallows. Beedle the Bard is the wizarding world equivalent of Grimm, and he doesn't shy away from gory details. (Note to parents: Two of these tales may be too dark to read at bedtime.) Each fable offers a life lesson, but unlike, say, Cinderella, Rowling's characters "take their fates into their own hands, rather than [wait] for someone to return a lost shoe." The true appeal here, though, lies in the explanatory after notes, ostensibly written by Albus Dumbledore. His wry comments won't mean much to Potter neophytes, but for fans they're an irresistible reminder of a much missed world.

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