cover image Sunflower Island

Sunflower Island

Carol Greene. HarperCollins, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-027326-2

Through her poetic reflection on the fate of an old river boat, Greene (The Golden Locket) testifies to the enduring legacy of stories passed down through generations. Inspired by a boat that sank in the Wabash River in 1865, the tale describes the sinking of the Sunflower one winter's night. Young Polly witnesses the event from her window and watches the boat's transformation over the years into an island. Greene's lyrical description of this process calls to mind the creation of a delicate collage: ""Then the river brought gifts/ to the Sunflower--/ seeds, driftwood,/ and tiny floating islands."" Later, Polly tells her own daughter of Sunflower Island's origins; by the book's end, when the island has disintegrated, and the river reveals the bare bones of the Sunflower, many generations have heard Polly's tale. Jenkins's (If I Only Had a Horn) acrylic, spray paint and pastel illustrations echo the haunting quality of the prose poem with surreal perspectives (Polly's view of the wreck through an enormous window frame that almost places her in the water) and juxtapositions (the stranded Sunflower seems to hover above the sleepy village). He uses an abstract, collage-like interplay of blocky shapes and unusual color combinations: pastel pink, orange and yellow accent large expanses of russet and forest green. Both text and art create an elegant, harmonious meditation on the art of storytelling. (Jan.)