July 30, 1984 12:00 PM

by Ben Lucien Burman

For those who know the earlier stories of Burman’s fanciful land along the Mississippi, it need only be noted that this new installment has been published. The tradition of this kind of folk tale might have vanished altogether if Burman, who is 88, wasn’t keeping it alive—and lively as ever. This is story-telling at some primitive, soul-satisfying level, fast-paced and basic. In Thunderbolt a raccoon tells how he and the other old critters in Catfish Bend are made to feel unwelcome by the younger generation. So, the raccoon, along with a fox, bloodhound, rabbit, frog and a snake that is called Judge Black and that constantly mangles old sayings, set out for Australia. The kangaroos are friendly enough, but the Catfish travelers get into trouble with ants and then with the dogs who look after the sheep. The Catfish Benders flee to India, where they have another series of adventures with angry cobras and a lion with an inferiority complex. Burman borrows shamelessly from classic legends and uses all the clichés we’ve ever heard about life in Australia and India. The combination is irresistible. This is the sort of prose that cries out to be read aloud, especially to someone who is about four feet tall or shorter. (Wieser & Wieser, $10.95)

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