Red Ribbon, with Cassette

Sarah Weeks, Author, Jeffrey Greene, Illustrator
Sarah Weeks, Author, Jeffrey Greene, Illustrator HarperCollins Publishers $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-025430-8
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A sober subject and bouncy tune make a curious pairing in this book-and-cassette package from singer/songwriter Weeks (Crocodile Smile; Follow the Moon). Written in the voice of eight-year-old Jenny, the song addresses a neighbor suffering from AIDS. The pivotal question here (""My name is Jenny-I talk a lot./ I watch the neighbors hurrying past./ What kind of sickness have you got/ That made you get so old so fast?"") is never answered directly. Rather, Jenny's mother gives her a red ribbon and shows her how to fold it and pin it on her shirt; a red ribbon is also included in this package. Whenever the child asks after their ill neighbor, Mama shakes her head and says, ""There's nothing they can do."" But, as the illustrations reveal, Jenny wraps up her treasures (a seashell, feathers, a lucky penny), delivers them to the man's door and vows that she will wear her ribbon each day, ""And I'll think of you."" Greene's (Just My Dad & Me) affecting, realistic paintings help amplify Weeks's vague lyrics, but adults will clearly have to provide some explanations. For a more thoughtful picture book about AIDS, see Leslea Newman's Too Far Away to Touch (Children's Forecasts, Feb. 6). Ages 4-8. (Sept.)
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