cover image Sister Yessa's Story

Sister Yessa's Story

Karen Radler Greenfield. HarperCollins Publishers, $15 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-020278-1

Unevenly executed but ingeniously conceived, this picture book splices together Creation stories from divergent traditions. Sister Yessa begins a long journey to her brother's place, anxious to beat the rain certain to pour from the ominous gray sky. She lures all sorts of creatures to accompany her by telling a story--the tale of the Great Turtle, who once trod the earth, carrying all the world's beasts on his enormous carapace and releasing each into its proper habitat. Yessa's entourage grows steadily as the Great Turtle's diminishes, and the ending comes as a perfect surprise: Yessa's brother is Noah (Yes and No--get it?), and the animals she has gathered are destined to enter the ark. Ewart's illustrations effectively separate the two tales by bordering the Great Turtle sequences with fossil-like pictures of animals, and her landscapes boast an imaginative use of color. First-time author Greenfield, however, is less accomplished a storyteller than her heroine. The narrative is frequently bland (``Yessa looked up at the sky and went on''), depending on the exoticism of the featured animals to sustain the reader's interest until the knockout finale. Ages 5-9. (Aug.)