cover image The Teardrop Baby

The Teardrop Baby

Karen Radler Greenfield. HarperCollins Publishers, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-06-022943-6

In both text and art, a quality approximating Bosch for the younger set informs this seemingly straightforward book and adds sufficient subtleties to reward many readings. Collicott's illustrations, with many-eyed flowers and a deliciously scary depiction of the edge of the world, realize and enhance Greenfield's (Sister Yessa's Story) cryptic tale of a couple in fairy-tale costume who weep over their lack of a child, then use the tears to water a cottage garden in which roses bloom even in the snow. The roses catch the eye of a ragged wizard woman who bakes fortunes in her baguettes and who promises the pair a teardrop child while exacting from them the baby's future. When claimed, the child becomes the woman's hard-worked bread boy; through a clever ruse, he regains his future and returns home. Children may question the wizard woman's motives here, as well as her swift and virtually unexplained disappearance at story's end. A few logistical points about the genesis of the teardrop baby (a reflection in a cradle of tears turns to ice, then back to a reflection again in the convoluted process) are also puzzling. In the end, however, compensatory chants and magical songs reinforce the book's charm-and its reassuring, albeit sophisticated notion that tears of sorrow can produce wildflowers of joy. Ages 4-9. (Sept.)