cover image My Great-Aunt Arizona

My Great-Aunt Arizona

Gloria Houston. HarperCollins, $17.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-022606-0

The author of The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree and Littlejim again demonstrates her skill as a graceful, affecting storyteller. In spare yet stirring prose, she recounts the life of her great-aunt Arizona, who ``was born in a log cabin her papa built . . . in the Blue Ridge Mountains.'' Arizona and her younger brother attended a one-room school, helped tap the maple trees in spring and ``caught tadpoles in the creek.'' Later, she went away to school, and returned to teach in the same schoolhouse where she herself learned. For 57 years, Arizona hugged her students, and ``taught them words and numbers, and about the faraway places they would visit someday.'' Lamb's bustling paintings--with glowing characters straight out of Laura Ingalls Wilder--convey the timeless beauty of the region, as well as Arizona's warmth and charisma. Though her great-aunt died at the age of 93, Houston concludes that she ``travels with me and with those of us whose lives she touched. . . . She goes with us in our minds.'' Readers will be among the many touched by this very special relative. Ages 6-9. (Mar.)