STREAM.Sally Bowen

DOWN BY THEENCHANTED

illustrations...

January 24, 1993|By SUSANNE TROWBRIDGE FREEDOM'S CHILDREN. Ellen Levine. Putnam. 167 pages. $16.95.

DOWN BY THE

ENCHANTED STREAM.

Sally Bowen; illustrations by

Kristina Wasmer.

B&A Press.

36 pages. $10.95 (paperback).

In her first children's book, Lutherville teacher Sally Bowen tells the story of Emmy, a lonely little girl who loves to play by the stream near her grandfather's house. Sometimes Emmy catches glimpse of one of the stream elves -- tiny creatures whose laughing faces are surrounded by flower petals.

One summer afternoon, a playful elf named Big-Time Charlie introduces himself and his family to Emmy. She spends the rest of the season frolicking with the elves, watching them play volleyball (with a pea as the ball and a spider-web net) and helping them water-ski (an old shoe serves as the boat).

The thought of having to go back to school depresses Emmy, but the elves also leave the stream when wintertime rolls around, and they part with promises to meet again next summer. When Emmy makes two new friends, she decides to tell them about the elves. The children are eager to meet the elfin family, but first they'll have to think of something special to coax them from their cold-weather hiding place.

"Down by the Enchanted Stream" should delight young children, who will surely find themselves looking for Big-Time Charlie and his fellow elves next time they're near the water. Kristina Wasmer's winsome, whimsical illustrations nicely complement this lighthearted tale. Remember the Little Rock Nine? The martyred Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney? The Birmingham, Ala., church bombing that killed four young girls and rocked a nation?

These were all celebrated cases involving young people who had a major impact on the civil rights movement. Author Ellen Levine, who herself traveled south to work in the movement 20 years ago, examines the lives of 30 such children and teen-agers through personal narratives, either by individuals or people who knew them well. The brief sketches help personalize the era of sit-ins and Freedom Rides for those who can recall it and for subsequent generations.

While the book is long on names and events -- there's an index for easy reference -- it leaves one craving more context. For example, Claudette Colvin is rightly noted as the forerunner to Rosa Parks. As a 15-year-old, she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus nine months before Mrs. Parks did. But the author doesn't explain why the earlier incident did not become a celebrated test case.

MARILYN MCCRAVEN

RUMPOLE ON TRIAL.

John Mortimer.

Viking.

243 pages. $21.

Even the most casual reader of fiction cannot help but notice the number of legal thrillers filling up the bookshelves. Invariably, the protagonist is a brash young lawyer with talent, great suits and courtroom flair well beyond his -- or her -- years. But the whole effect is usually less than the parts.

An antidote to this pap is the retrograde, forever quixotic defender of the weak, long-suffering Horace Rumpole of the Old Bailey. Rumpole -- even his wife calls him that -- is the creation of British author John Mortimer and became popular as part of the Public Broadcasting System's "Mystery" series. But as delightful the series is, reading Rumpole stories is even more enjoyable. The reader can savor the dialogue, sly insights, wonderful characters and clever mysteries, while the viewer tries to keep up with the teleplays.

Mr. Mortimer's latest installment, "Rumpole on Trial," contains the usual seven short stories, and they are as enjoyable as the others. Rumpole is still doing battle not only with the British justice system but also with his own superiors as they try to find a replacement for him. The fact that he has no retirement plans has hardly stopped the machinations. Happily, Rumpole is more than able to take on all comers and live to return next winter.

BOB BAYLUS

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