cover image Return of the Shadows

Return of the Shadows

Norma Farber. HarperCollins Publishers, $15 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-020518-8

This spare prose poem chronicles what happens when the shadows of the world break free from their owners and embark on a daylong romp. In the late Farber's ( As I Was Crossing Boston Common ) out-of-kilter settings, the Washington Monument casts the shadow of a rhinoceros, jungle monkeys peer at the Empire State Building's elongated silhouette and the shadow of a girl named Mimi keeps pace with that of a winning racehorse. As twilight falls, the shadows express a wistfulness at finding themselves adrift--``They longed for the known places they had come from.'' Baruffi's ( Good Night, Everyone! ) artwork elegantly combines the polish of 1940s poster art with the geometric precision of architectural drawings. In the book's prepossessing design, minimal text is centered on vari-colored pastel pages opposite full-page, borderless paintings. Despite the skilled prose and artwork, however, youngsters are apt to find this picture book somewhat bloodless: not only do the shadows evince little energy, but the overall concept here seems too sophisticated for the intended audience. Children may wish that the shadows had caused more of a stir before returning to their rightful places. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)