HAn Amish girl makes her first visit to a city (Chicago, in this case) in another graceful and understated work by the collaborators of the Caldecott Honor book, The Gardener. In daily entries, Hannah addresses her diary as ""my silent friend,"" as she excitedly recounts the day's activities and compares them to life back home. Each reference inspires the illustration that appears on the succeeding wordless spread Da scene from her rural hometown. Like her heroine, Stewart wastes no words; a simplicity and economy inform the prose. Small effectively depicts the spare, serene Amish lifestyle and, using a more subdued palette and a simpler line than in his previous work, effectively underscores the sharp contrast between the two settings. In one particularly engaging juxtaposition, Hannah describes a visit to a store. ""I was staring at some strange dresses when a saleswoman suddenly held one up to my shoulders,"" she writes, then wonders if, at home, her Aunt Clara has finished stitching Hannah's dress. The accompanying illustration shows a store clerk holding up a red and white polka-dot party dress in a glittering shop dominated by elegantly clad mannequins. A turn of the page reveals Hannah's recollection of standing barefoot in her aunt's stark sewing room, holding up a simple blue shift. Another strong visual segue concludes this exceptional title and brings home its themes: On her final day in the city, Hannah gazes at one of Monet's paintings of haystacks in a museum and admits in her journal ""how much I've missed [Aunt Clara] and my pony and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa and my sisters and brothers."" Strong likenesses of the haystacks appear on the following spread, as the bus carrying Hannah and her mother home passes by a dusk-shrouded field. (Observant youngsters may notice that in Small's aerial view of the family's home and barn, found on the endpapers, these two buildings bear a resemblance to those in the background of Monet's painting.) As affecting as the book's graphics, Hannah's candid journal entries, filled with a wide-eyed wonder of the city, spill over with a contagious enthusiasm (""I feel like happiness has rushed up and grabbed me from behind""). Her trip to the city only seems to deepen her appreciation for her family's way of life. Readers will feel as though they have made a fast friend in this likable young heroine. They will not easily forget her. All ages. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/12/2001 Release date: 03/01/2001 Genre: Children's
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