Local authors produce worthwhile books


December 05, 1992|By Molly Dunham Glassman | Molly Dunham Glassman,Staff Writer

Though it doesn't qualify as a writers' colony just yet Baltimore has its share of accomplished children's book authors. Several have new books worth checking out.

* Colby Rodowsky, whose award-winning books for young adults include "Julie's Daughter," "Sydney, Herself" and "The Gathering Room," has written another fine novel for teen-agers: "Lucy Peale" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $15).

Set on the Eastern Shore, it's the story of Lucy Peale, 17, the daughter of a fire-and-brimstone preacher who sees sin lurking everywhere. When Lucy is raped and becomes pregnant, her father wants her to repent in front of the crowd at his revival meeting. Instead, she runs away to Ocean City.

Homeless and hungry, she is taken in by Jake Jarrett, a lifeguard and aspiring writer who lives by himself and is older and wiser than his 20-something years.

Right away, Ms. Rodowsky lets readers know that Lucy has found a safe haven. After a frightening thunderstorm, Lucy recalls that when she was little, her father told her that thunder was "God shaking his fist at the sinners."

"No way," Jake says. "Mine always said it was angels moving their furniture around."

Jake proves to be gentle and protective and in love with Lucy and her baby-to-be.

One reviewer has suggested Jake is too good to be true. But Ms. Rodowsky makes him real. He is believable because of his compassion for Lucy, who is innocent and independent at the same time.

"I still maintain there are Jakes in the world," Ms. Rodowsky said this week. In addition to "Lucy Peale," Ms. Rodowsky also had "Jenny and the Grand Old Great-Aunts," published this year by Bradbury Press ($12.95, ages 6-9). Jenny is worried about spending an afternoon alone with Aunt Clare and Aunt Abby. She doesn't know them well, and there's nothing to do in their old Victorian house.

Then Aunt Abby takes her up to the attic, and together they play with the same treasures -- a Victrola, a trunk of old toys, a feather boa -- that Aunt Abby and Jenny's father shared when he was a little boy. Barbara J. Roman's soft illustrations match the simple pleasures of the story.

* M. C. Helldorfer's latest book is also for early readers, though it makes a great read-aloud, too: "The Darling Boys (Bradbury Press, $14.95, ages 5-8). Based on the old ballad "Get Up and Bar the Door," it's about two brothers, Swindle and Gyp, who are lazy, quarrelsome scoundrels. Their virtuous sister, Vi, does all the work, helping their mother run the family bakery ever since their father died.

Like the old couple in the original ballad, the two brothers get into an argument over who should get up and lock the door. Finally, they make a pact: Whoever speaks first has to lock the door. So when a stranger comes to the door, neither brother wants to be the first to speak. They squirm in silence as the resourceful robber, who looks vaguely familiar, makes off with their secret stash of gold.

It has a clever, satisfying ending, and Megan Halsey's cartoon-like illustrations are right on the money. Fans of Ms. Helldorfer also will be happy to hear that she and Julie Downing, who illustrated "Daniel's Gift," have teamed up on another book to be published by Bradbury in the spring of 1993. It's called "Cabbage Rose." And "Spook House," a novel set in Ocean City, was recently released in paperback by Pocket Books.

* Susan L. Roth is a wizard with scissors, as her cut-paper collage illustrations attest. Her artwork made "Fire Came to the Earth People" a New York Times Best Illustrated Book, and her collages in the new book, "Ishi's Tale of Lizard" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $14, ages 8 and up) are her most sophisticated yet.

But Ms. Roth is also a fine writer, especially when it comes to heartfelt stories about families. If you liked "We'll Ride Elephants Through Brooklyn," don't miss "Another Christmas" (Morrow ,X Junior Books, $15, ages 5 and up).

Every Christmas, Ben has gone out in the snow with Grandpa to chop down the Christmas tree. But Grandpa died last spring, and now Ben's parents want to get far away from the memories: They want to spend Christmas in Puerto Rico.

Ben and Grandma aren't crazy about the idea, but they go along with it. Then Grandma lets Ben in on her Christmas secret, and the family's tropical celebration helps Ben, his parents and Grandma share their grief and their love and their happiness, all at the same time.

Ms. Roth will be appearing at Hooked on Books in Frederick from noon to 1:30 p.m. Dec. 12.

* Another local author continues to receive well-deserved praise for her first book. "Morning Milking" by Linda Lowe Morris, a writer for The Sun, with illustrations by David DeRan (Picture Book Studio, $16.95, ages 7 and up) has been included in Smithsonian magazine's annual list of the year's best children's books.

* Waldenbooks at Towsontown Center will have several Maryland authors signing their books in the next few weeks. Tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., it's Mick Blackistone ("The Day They Left the Bay," "Buffalo and the River, "Broken Wings Will Fly"). Sunday, Dec. 13, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., it's Margaret Meacham ("The Secret of Heron Creek") and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., it's Isabel Wilner ("B is for Bethlehem," "The Garden Alphabet"). Sunday, Dec. 20, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., it's Lynn Lockhart ("Rambling Raft" and "Once a Pony Time").

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