DANCING THE RING SHOUT!
Siegelson's (In the Time of the Drum ) lyrical, effectively repetitious story centers on an African-American boy in the rural south who is finally old enough to participate in the "ring shout" song and dance ritual marking the end of harvest. Toby's grandfather instructs him to bring something "to play along with the singing.... Something that speaks from your heart straight to the ears of God." The baffled boy queries members of his family and learns what they are bringing (his grandfather takes a cane to pound on the ground, his father brings a hoop drum, etc.) and how its sound correlates to a specific gift from nature (e.g., the sound of the cane emulates the "hooves of our plow mule" that break ground in the spring—"I give praise for our mule," says his grandfather). After trying out various objects, Toby arrives at the ring shout empty-handed, yet soon discovers a way to demonstrate his gratitude. From the opening sentence ("On the last day of the harvest year, the sun rose fat and warm as a hoecake over Appling Farm"), Siegelson fills her smooth narrative with strong imagery. Simplicity marks Cohen's (The Blues Singers ) striking paintings, which layer solid colors to create almost a collage effect. She builds a sense of drama with shocks of vibrant color against muted, deeply toned backdrops. Swirling arrangement of type reinforces the energy and rhythm of the ceremony (the history of which the author explains in a concluding note). A warm celebration of an uplifting tradition. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)