A LADDER TO THE STARS

Simon Puttock, Author, Alison Jay, Illustrator , illus. by Alison Jay. Holt $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8050-6783-5

Puttock's (A Story for Hippo: A Book About Loss) gently crafted tale offers a child-centered approach to the sensitive theme of death. On her seventh birthday, a girl makes a wish to dance with a glittering star. Using language abundant with personification, Puttock explains how "the star turned cartwheels and told the moon about the little girl's wish" and the moon "wasted away to a splinter worrying about what to do." The accompanying illustration shows a now-crescent moon gathered with the star, sun and clouds to plot how they will grant the wish. Jay's (Picture This) buoyant paintings lend a nurturing, comfy feel in their geometrically shaped canvases of luxuriant royal blue skies and serenely smiling, slightly elongated characters. Her unique mix of abstract figures and realistic settings provide just the right backdrop for this spiritual theme. The heroine, on her 107th birthday, climbs a special tree that the celestial bodies planted as a stairway to the heavens, and the climactic painting conveys her exuberant dance with the beckoning star. While younger children may well enjoy this story at face value, older readers will draw the parallels with death and the transient nature of time. Tender in both words and pictures and nondenominational in nature, this multilayered tale will provoke lofty thoughts. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)