cover image At the Beach

At the Beach

Huy Voun Lee, Author, Huy Voun Lee, Illustrator Henry Holt & Company $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8050-2768-6

The backdrop is a day by the sea, the set design features impeccably executed cut-paper collages, and the mild drama centers on young Xiao Ming, who is learning to write Chinese. His mother, wisely referring to the various activities around them, helps him draw relevant characters in the sand. Water, sky, person, child, woman--one by one they record the Chinese symbol and talk of how best to remember each. The character for person , for example, looks like ``someone walking'' and water looks like ``a big splash.'' A graceful marriage of the general (the sweeping scenes of a carefree crowd at the beach) and the specific (the lesson in Chinese), this picture book debut can be enjoyed on several levels. Lee's mellow-hued collages feature a multicultural crowd of beachgoers, while elaborate cut-outs grace the borders, echoing the fluid line of the Chinese characters. It's a remarkably unified effort: everything works together to create a flawless picture book. Ages 4-8. (May)