Pinkney (Solo Girl ; Duke Ellington ) offers a quiet, message-driven story set in the pre–civil rights South, as two parent-and-child pairs fish alongside one another in a "wide muddy stream folks around here call Jim Crow River." Narrator Reenie and her mother are African-American and fish for fun; Pigeon Troop and his father are white and fish for food. The two families never speak.
Reenie's mother explains: "Jim Crow is the law of the land.... The law that says black people have a place, white people have a place, and the two should steer clear of each other." The girl wisely replies, "But Mama... rivers are for everybody." When Mr. Troop briefly leaves, Pigeon begins chucking stones at Reenie and her mother, who observes sagely that the boy is hurting and "can't help but spread his hurt around." Reenie, having caught two large carp while the Troops have caught nothing, approaches Pigeon and generously shares her bait and sound advice. Featuring revealing portraits of the characters, Evans's (Osceola: Memories of a Sharecropper's Daughter ) spare paintings effectively mirror the emotional tenor of this simultaneously sad and hopeful tale. His compositions emphasize the issues of boundaries: as the Troops approach, large-scale depictions of Reenie and her mother give way to tightly, explicitly framed close-ups that literally box in the characters. And when Reenie makes her overture, she stands on the spread free of any frame, extending a hand into a framed image of Pigeon—visually demonstrating that friendship dissolves borders. Ages 5-9. (Nov.)