Allen Say, Author . Houghton/Lorraine $17 (32p) ISBN 978-0-618-31118-7

Once again, Say (Home of the Brave ) practically takes one's breath away with the understated beauty of his watercolors. With a photo-like realism, he depicts Alice, an elderly Japanese-American woman, capturing every age spot and laugh line and making her radiant skin almost tactile. Her portrait telegraphs an inner peace and elegant beauty. Alice's story begins in California where, as a girl, she "loved dancing more than anything else." But after marrying, she embarks on a life of farming that allows little time for dancing. Say traces her uprooting during WWII, her ups and downs in the fields and the death of her husband. The narrative ends abruptly as the widowed, grieving Alice finds closure when she visits the farm she and her husband left 30 years before, finding it neglected and dilapidated. She declares, "Now I can dance!" The last image shows her dancing with a younger man, a scene that could profit from a bit more fleshing out ("And dance I do—all that I can"). Adults may respond best to this documentary-style life story. For example, the meaning of Alice's comment about their bustling farm ("What good is success if we can't enjoy ourselves?") may escape the picture-book audience. Nevertheless, fans of Say's artwork should relish these paintings. He accentuates the historical milieu with a palette of faded, often sepia tones and still, composed subjects who stare frankly at the audience—as though fully aware of the camera turned on their ordinary but eventful lives. All ages. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/26/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
Genre: Children's
Open Ebook - 32 pages - 978-0-547-34597-0
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