cover image ANNA THE BOOKBINDER

ANNA THE BOOKBINDER

Andrea Cheng, Author, Ted Rand, Illustrator , illus. by Ted Rand. Walker $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8027-8831-3

Anna, the protagonist of this tender period piece, sees her father's bookbinding business slipping away, as customers choose the speedy delivery of the big, new binderies (which use glue) over the quality of her father's carefully hand-sewn books. When Anna's mother goes into labor shortly before an important customer's job is due, the girl surprises her father by re-stitching the books herself—immaculately. Cheng (Marika) establishes ambience and key relationships in just a few opening lines: "My papa smells like paper and leather and glue. When I sit on his lap at night I find paper snippets in his hair. He lets me peel the dry glue from his fingertips." The author tidily binds together plot and subplot: from the leather scraps Anna collects as her father binds a collection of Aesop's fables, the girl crafts a picture of the tortoise and hare, and the moral exemplifies the painstaking quality of their bookmaking. Readers hoping for a close-up look at Anna's work may be frustrated, however. While black-and-white sketches on the endpapers give a general sense of various steps in the process, Rand's realistic watercolors favor a more impressionistic approach. His compositions feel almost cinematic, capturing small moments—the father touching Anna's hair or his plaintive gesture to a churlish customer—that indeed speak volumes. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)