cover image WHAT DO ANGELS WEAR?


Eileen Spinelli, , illus. by Emily Arnold McCully. . HarperCollins, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028886-0

Spinelli (When Mama Comes Home Tonight ) and McCully (Mirette on the High Wire ) turn in less than their most substantial performances in this sweet, soothing but empty-headed bedtime book. As a mother says goodnight to a child (who could be either sex), the child starts asking questions about angels, to which the mother replies in verse. "Tell me this, can angels sing?/ Yes, just like the birds in spring./ Sometimes they will sing along/ With the hurdy-gurdy's song," runs a typical exchange. Readers also learn that angels wear "sparkles in their hair,/ Flowing flower-printed smocks,/ And in winter, woolen socks." McCully obligingly supplies a cast of gender-neutral, mostly white, winged children garbed in gaily patterned smocks, cavorting amid fluffy white clouds or perched "in an orchard sweet with pears,/ On benches, trains and rocking chairs." The artist tosses in an angel who sits on the child's nightstand, unobserved, and she gives the child's cat its own angel double, too, a winged feline. These innovations aside, the visual interpretation adheres to the text's sugary recipe. These "angels" have no divine role to play; they could just as easily be fairies or sprites. Their purpose here seems to consist of helping the mother lull her child to sleep. Asked at the end if angels are real, the mother says, "Yes, my love, that's how I feel./ Real as love and wind and light./ Real as Mama's kiss good night." Ages 4-8. (Oct.)