Winter books sure to warm the heart


January 27, 1995|By Molly Dunham Glassman | Molly Dunham Glassman,Sun Staff Writer

Winter has taken its time arriving this year. Might as well curl up with some cocoa and a book now that it's here.

* "Winter Poems," selected by Barbara Rogasky, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (Scholastic, $15.95, 40 pages, ages 7 and up), celebrates the season with the words of William Shakespeare and Richard Wright, Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Frost, Lilian Moore and more.

It's a well-choreographed anthology of 25 poems, leading the reader from the wild geese of fall through the first snow, from the first flu straight through to the first thaw.

Ms. Hyman won the Caldecott Medal for "St. George and the Dragon" and Caldecott honors for "Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins" and "Little Red Riding Hood." In this book, her fine acrylic paintings do double duty.

First, the background of each double-page spread shows the same New England landscape -- a farm in the shadow of blue mountains. It ages as you turn the pages, the snow growing deeper, the night lasting longer as winter progresses.

Second, the landscape serves as a frame for each poem and its accompanying illustration. Ms. Hyman uses scenes from everyday life at her family's farmhouse. With Ogden Nash's "The Germ," for instance, Ms. Hyman's grandson is huddled under an afghan, cat in lap and box of tissues at his feet. Ms. Hyman's daughter is white and her son-in-law is African-American, a couple worth noting because there are still so few books that take biracial families in stride.

* "The Skates of Uncle Richard," by Carol Fenner, illustrated by Ati Forberg (Stepping Stone by Random House, $3.50, 64 pages, ages 7-9), stars Marsha, a 9-year-old African-American girl who dreams of becoming an Olympic figure skater.

She has never skated, but she is entranced by the skaters she watches on TV. Her brother takes her to the frozen lagoon near their house, but she can only skid along in her boots because she has no skates.

Marsha's father died when she was little, and her mother provides a loving, middle-class home for her two children. When Marsha asks for skates for Christmas, it's clear that her mother doesn't think they would be a practical present. But Marsha works hard around the house and keeps asking for the skates. When she finds a large box under the Christmas tree, readers are sure Marsha's mother has come through.

Then she opened it up. There inside the whispering tissue bulged the ugliest ice skates she had ever seen.

They are old, black, hockey skates that belonged to Marsha's Uncle Richard when he was 7 years old, not the bright, white figure skates she wears as she glides through her dreams.

Several weeks pass before Marsha can bring herself to take the skates to the lagoon. She falls. Her ankles wobble. When her brother grudgingly pulls her along as he skates backward, her head hunches forward and her bottom sticks out. He dumps her so he can join his friends, and she's as miserable as a person can get.

Then Uncle Richard skates by. He recognizes the skates, shows Marsha how to lace them properly and teaches her how to bend her knees and how to make her ankles relax into her boots. It works. Her delight grows with each push, glide . . . push, glide.

It's a sweet story, but Ms. Fenner's style is clean and direct, not smarmy. Elementary students will identify with Marsha's dreams and disappointments, her fear of failure and her sense of triumph.

* If winter has already been around too long for your taste and a tropical vacation isn't in the family budget, escape with "A

Caribbean Dozen: Poems From Caribbean Poets," edited by John Agard and Grace Nichols, illustrated by Cathie Felstead (Candlewick, $19.95, 96 pages, ages 4 and up).

Thirteen poets re-create the cool rhythms and hot colors of their childhoods in Trinidad and Guyana, Jamaica and the Bahamas. Each poet writes an essay about where he or she grew up. They share memories of young adventures and tell of how they came to love words and all that words can do.

The collection is made even more attractive by the wide-ranging artwork of Ms. Felstead. Her styles sweep from collages to pastels, watercolors to oils to ink. Some illustrations are bold and primitive, others impressionistic. It's a keeper.


* As part of the celebration of Babe Ruth's 100th birthday, Baltimore author Lois Nicholson will autograph copies of her new book, "Babe Ruth: Sultan of Swat," starting at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 4 at the Babe Ruth Museum, 216 Emory St. She will be reading from the book at other times during the celebration at the museum, which continues Sunday.

* One of last year's most elegant books was "Brown Angels" by Walter Dean Myers. Now the vintage photographs of African-American children that Mr. Myers collected for the book are included in an exhibit that opens Monday at the Enoch Pratt's Central Library, 400 Cathedral St.

Mr. Myers will speak at the library at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26, about the book and the exhibit, and he will sign copies of "Brown Angels." The exhibit, in the library's second-floor gallery, will be at the Pratt until Feb. 28. The talk and the exhibit are free.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.