Jacqueline Woodson, , illus. by E.B. Lewis. . Putnam, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23748-5

The creators of The Other Side set this quietly stirring tale during an unspecified wartime (though details in the paintings suggest WWII). Ada Ruth's mother packs her suitcase in the opening full-bleed painting, explaining to her daughter, "They're hiring colored women in Chicago since all the men are off fighting in the war.... I'm gonna head on up there." Staying with her loving grandmother, the forlorn narrator continues to write to her mother, yet receives no response. Ada Ruth takes solace in her grandmother's embraces and encouragement ("Your mama's gonna be coming on home soon") and in the company of a kitten that appears at the door one snowy morning. Woodson's narrative is lyrical and spontaneous; of the kitten, Ada Ruth observes, "It's a slip of a thing. But its softness is big./ And warm as ten quilts on my lap./ Warm as Mama's hands." Lewis's lifelike, earth-toned watercolors deftly convey the sustaining affection and mutual support between Ada Ruth and her grandmother, as well as the girl's simultaneous loneliness. Well placed cameo-shaped portraits of the mother and her activities provide reassurance to readers. The story ends on a positive note: the long-awaited letter from Mama promises "I'll be coming on home soon" and a final, wordless image reveals the woman making her way through the snow to their door. Ages 5-up. (Oct.)